Dan has been on the Lotusland Board since 2014, and most recently served as Co-Vice President.Having been raised in the neighborhood, Dan has a long-time personal attachment to the garden, and his support and commitment to Lotusland is unwavering. Dan, a Master Rosarian, is well known in the Montecito and Santa Barbara gardening community for his exceptional knowledge of roses and has been designing gardens, especially rose gardens, since 1989. Dan is the owner of Bifano & Co., Inc., a property management company. He has served on boards or committees of nonprofits such as Central Coast Congregate Care (Sarah House and Heath House), Susan Love Breast Cancer Foundation, Santa Barbara Rose Society, A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden, and CALM. Dan has been a member and donor since 1993.
Laura was appointed Planning Commissioner, 2nd District, Santa Barbara County, in April 2019, and in early 2020 was elected Chair of the Planning Commission. She is an experienced consultant working in land use and transportation planning as well as historic preservation and non-profit administration. Laura has worked as a Contract Planner for the City of Goleta and County of Santa Barbara. She was the President of the Montecito Association for nine years and she was the first Executive Director of Casa del Herrero. She grew up in Montecito and worked with Lotusland on our original Conditional Use Permit and is co-chair of our Ad Hoc CUP Committee. Laura and her husband John have been Lotusland Members since 1993.
Merryl is the President and Creative Director of Merryl Brown Events based in Santa Barbara with a presence in Los Angeles and New York. She is a former international banker with American Express Bank and Bankers Trust in New York and held the position of Director of PR and Events at Saks Fifth Avenue Santa Barbara, and served for two terms as a trustee of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. She is a Lifetime Honorary Trustee of Lotusland, and was one of our original Trustees. While serving on our board, she both created and produced Lotusland Celebrates for several years. Merryl is also a certified Master Gardener and has been a Lotusland Member since 1993.
Ron was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents from Scotland and England. His father was the head gardener on the large estate where they lived in Hollywood. His family moved to Santa Barbara where Ron attended Santa Barbara High School, taking a special interest in horticulture. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. Ron worked for Mistletoe Sales, followed by a long career working at Griffin Tree and Landscape. He spent a large amount of his time working at Lotusland starting in 1968. In the early 1970s, Ron purchased property off south Patterson Avenue and began Por La Mar Nursery. Ron later sold Griffin Tree and Landscape to concentrate on the growth of the nursery. He remains very active in the nursery and sits on the Ag Advisory and Crop Science Advisory Committees at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Ron and his wife have supported Lotusland for 14 years.
A sixth-generation, Santa Barbara native and co-founder of Giffin & Crane General Contractors, LLC, Geoff has been involved with Lotusland since 1995 and served as Trustee from 2004 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2019. During that time he served as Chair of the Facilities Committee and assisted in numerous projects or repairs around the property. Geoff has also served on the Long Range Planning Committee, Nominations, Governance Committee, and Development Committee. Re-joining the board again in 2020, he is currently active with the Building and Grounds Committee and Philanthropy Committee. Geoff and his wife live in Montecito, and part-time in McCall Idaho.
Originally from Pasadena, and a sixth generation Californian, Lesley first fell in love with Santa Barbara while attending UCSB. After a long paralegal career in San Francisco and Los Angeles, she went on to practice law in Los Angeles and the tri-county area. She has practiced as a civil litigator and business transaction attorney, and has expanded her private practice to include estate planning. Lesley has served on the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. She has been an active contributor to the Environmental Defense Center, the Santa Barbara County Bowl, the Food Bank of Santa Barbara, Pacific Pride Foundation and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as well as Lotusland. She is an avid environmental activist and gardener. Lesley has been a member and donor since 2006.
Rachael is a Montecito based real estate agent, specializing in unique and architecturally significant properties, including equestrian. Originally from Illinois, she spent most of her life in Telluride, Colorado, where she was a menswear buyer and later became a real estate broker. Her first visit to Lotusland was upon joining the Santa Barbara Newcomers in 2006. She was so moved by her initial visit to Lotusland that she made it a goal to become a docent. Nine years later she completed the docent training and has since been leading private tours. Rachael’s enthusiasm regarding the history and the evolution of the property starting is palpable. She currently sits on the Board of the Berkshire Hathaway Charitable Foundation, and is a supporter of the Music Academy of the West and Direct Relief International. Rachael is proud to be a member of The Lotus Society and adopted a lantern as a way to honor her grandfather and invest in the Japanese Garden Renovation.
Dorothy had a successful career in health finance and development. She was named founding President of the Michael Reese Health Trust in 1994, a post she held until her retirement in 2008. This private foundation endowment of almost $200 million funded health projects focused on access and quality for the underserved in the Chicago metropolitan area. In 2006 Dorothy and her husband, John, moved part-time to Santa Barbara, where they now live part-time. Gardening has long been an avocation for the couple. Their former suburban Chicago garden is featured in the book EARTH ON HER HANDS, The American Woman in Her Garden by Star Ockenga. The garden was selected by the Garden Club of America to be documented for their archives at The Smithsonian, as are the gardens in Montecito. Dorothy has served on numerous civic committees and boards in Chicago. Among them, she is on the board of the Chicago Botanic Garden, The Garden Conservancy (NY) and Direct Relief (CA). She holds a BA degree from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, an MA with honors (Lauréate) from Middlebury College and a “Diplôme de littérature contemporaine” from the Sorbonne. The Gardners have four children and five grandchildren. Dorothy has been a Lotusland supporter since her move to Montecito in 2006 and currently serves on the Board of Trustees.
Anthony is an Architect and Partner at Harrison Design’s Santa Barbara office, one of seven offices worldwide specializing in high-quality architecture in a range of styles. He received his bachelor’s degrees from Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada, in both Architectural Studies and Art History, and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Devoted to historic architecture, Anthony serves as Chair on the City of Santa Barbara’s Historic Landmarks Commission and is the President of the Board for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. He is active in a range of programs that promote the understanding and appreciation of architecture within Santa Barbara. Anthony has provided pro bono architectural services over the last several years on several Lotusland projects and currently Chairs the Lotusland Building & Grounds committee.
David is President of David M. Jones and Associates, a firm he created in 1985 that specializes in estate and insurance planning for families. David and his wife Judy are part-time residents, splitting their time between Montecito and Naples, Florida. David and Judy discovered Montecito on a California vacation almost 20 years ago. They are very involved in their scholarship fund for high school seniors and have awarded dozens of college scholarships over the last 10 years. He is a passionate Burgundy wine collector as well as a member of the Chevaliers du Tastevin based in France. David and Judy have been Lotusland members and supporters since 2012, and are Lotus Society members.
Lisa Bjornson Wolf is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley in New York. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Lisa spent 13 years at JP Morgan in their Investment Bank and Asset Management divisions, most recently at the Private Bank’s Financial Institutions Group.
We have been fortunate to have enjoyed Lisa’s volunteerism on the Lotusland Celebrates Event Committee and are ecstatic to welcome her as a Trustee. Lisa was awarded a Master of Science in International Economics and Japan Studies from Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C., holds a B.A. cum laude from Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and is a graduate of the Hotchkiss School. She has served on many non-profit boards including Lapham’s Quarterly, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The State Street Ballet, and the Healthcare Chaplaincy.
Joseph Marek is a licensed landscape architect based in Los Angeles who has been designing and building gardens for 25 years throughout California. Joseph began visiting Lotusland soon after his arrival in Southern California in 1994 and right after the gardens were opened to the public. He joined the Board of Trustees in January 2018 and is the current chair of the board’s Governance Committee. He is also co-chairing Lotusland Celebrates in 2022. Joseph was drawn to gardening and the arts as a young boy. Growing up in an Air Force family and living in such far-flung places as South Texas, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the German Rhineland, and Tidewater Virginia, he was exposed to a multitude of climates and plant communities, and to the gardening traditions in each of them. After graduating from Yale with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and the University of Virginia with a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture he settled in southern California in 1994. He worked with Nancy Goslee Power in Santa Monica until establishing the office of Joseph Marek Landscape Architecture in 2001. His design work is heavily influenced by his early exposure to gardens and by his continuing travels to gardens around the country and the world. Joseph works on gardens of all sizes but finds particular enjoyment designing personal gardens for individuals and families. In these intimate spaces, every opinion matters and every detail counts. Joseph also serves on the Board of Directors of The Garden Conservancy and chairs the organization’s Open Days Committee. Joseph is an ardent advocate for organ donation. His partner, John Bernatz, was the recipient of a kidney donation in 2017 from an altruistic living donor. Both he and his donor are thriving today. Joseph is also dedicated to celebrating diversity and all the good that it brings—from the plant habitats in the gardens he creates to our society and nation as a whole.
Mimi was born in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Adelphi University in New York. She traveled extensively before coming west to Sun Valley, Idaho, where she met her future husband while on a small plane, and they eventually moved to Los Angeles. Mimi has been very active in the Santa Barbara community since moving here in 1999 after her husband passed away. She has served on the Women’s Board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Maritime Museum Auxiliary Board and the non-profit Adventures in Caring Board for many years. Mimi was President of the Women’s group of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club after serving as treasurer for two years and on the hospitality committee for two years. Mimi has been a Lotusland member and donor since 2000, and is a Lotus Society member.
Mari is a native Californian, born in Pasadena and raised in San Marino. Immediately following graduation from Pitzer College, she lived and worked in Kenya, first as a volunteer then employed in non-profit relief and development work. Upon returning to the United States, Mari was employed by the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief focusing primarily on international refugee resettlement. She continued working in the non-profit sector, concluding her professional life as a Manager of Major Gift for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. At CHLA she successfully established the Board of Regents, expanding the reach of the hospital’s major donor base. Mari, Hank and their son, Kelford, moved to Santa Barbara in 2008. Almost immediately she rechanneled her professional non-profit experience to focus on several philanthropic and volunteer opportunities – among them, the Board of the Cate Parents Organization (chairing the CPO and serving as a Board Trustee in 2011-2012), Trustee of Direct Relief (with the second term on the Executive Board); Chair of DirectRelief WOMEN; Member, Garden Club of Santa Barbara (Executive Board Member, 2020-2022); Member, Facilities and Horticulture Committee, Botanic Garden of Santa Barbara; volunteer advisor and supporter of several additional non-profits. Mari has a passion for her garden (while admitting to learning as she goes), as well as for private and public gardens. She and Hank are Lotusland Members and donors, committed to its long-term success, its standing as a leader in whimsical design and horticultural collections, and its commitment to environmental conservation.
Connie is a 6th-generation Texan from Dallas. She and her husband, John, bought a home in Santa Barbara in 1999 and divide their time between Dallas and Santa Barbara. Connie has served on many boards and committees for years in Dallas, but Lotusland is her first in Santa Barbara. She was also on the Girls Inc. board and 100 luncheon committee. Although she and John have their roots in Dallas where John is involved in real estate development, their plan is to be in Santa Barbara full-time. Connie says that after discovering Lotusland, they were hooked and now choose to support the garden as one of their major loves in Santa Barbara. Connie and John are Lotus Society members and have been members and supporters of Lotusland since 2000.
A native Californian, Jeff is originally from San Jose. He has enjoyed gardening since he was able to walk and shares his grandmother’s passion for growing and nurturing plants. Today, Jeff enjoys focusing his gardening on indoor plants and container gardening. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Accounting and Finance from Santa Clara University. He recently retired from a challenging 35-year career with Chevron Corporation in a number of roles, including Finance Manager, Chevron Oronite; Group Manager, Corporate Audit; Internal Controls Manager, SEC Coordinator, and Accounting Policy Manager, Corporate Controller’s Office. Chevron generously matched many of Jeff’s donations to Lotusland over the years. Jeff and his spouse Stan Shayer have enjoyed visiting and supporting Lotusland for the past 13 years, and are Lotus Society members.
Stephen is a Senior Advisor with Evercore Partners, a global independent investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions. In a 36 year career he has lived and worked in New York, London and Tokyo. Before joining Evercore in 2007 he headed the global chemicals industry practice at Citigroup, and prior to that, at J.P. Morgan. He moved to Santa Barbara from New York City in 2012 with his partner, Daron Builta, and is actively involved with the Music Academy of the West and All-Saints-by-the-Sea. Stephen has been a member of the Lotusland Finance Committee since 2016, and is the current chair. Stephen also serves on the board of the Family Independence Initiative, an innovative Oakland, CA, organization dedicated to changing the narrative around families in poverty in the United States. Stephen has a deep love of gardens and landscape architecture, and recently completed an extensive re-landscaping of his Montecito garden, working with Isabelle Greene. He is a 1981 graduate of Princeton University with a degree in history. Stephen has been a member and donor since 2013.
Caroline Thomson is a principal of Cabana Home, a home furnishing and design store. Her involvement and growing passion for Lotusland began with the Cabana Home transformation of the pavilion into a luxury “stay-cation” auction item for Lotusland Celebrates in 2009. She has been a member of the Lotusland Celebrates committee for the past six years in various roles including auction co-chair and tri-chair. Caroline co-chaired the Gifts for the Garden campaign with Connie Pearcy in 2013. Caroline has been a Lotusland member and supporter for 12 years. Caroline graduated with a B.S. from the University of Texas. The Texas ties continue with a Millennial daughter, Caroline, living and working in Dallas whose dream one day is to be married at Lotusland! Caroline serves on the Girl’s Inc. board, the executive committee and the 100 committee. She co-chaired the 2014 Christmas at the Casa (Del Herrero) and is a member of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art PhotoFutures and All Saints by the Sea Flower Guild.
Rick, most recently, served as the Chief Financial Officer of Motion Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that merged with DocGo Inc. (Nasdaq: DCGO) in November 2021. His previous positions include serving as Executive Vice President and former CFO of CalAmp Corp., a technology company providing wireless communications solutions, CFO of SMTEK International, an electronics manufacturing services provider, Corporate Controller of Data-Design Laboratories, a diversified technology company, and Senior Manager with Price Waterhouse, where he earned his CPA license. Rick holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Cal Poly Pomona where he graduated summa cum laude and an MBA from UCLA. Rick and his wife Sheila live in Thousand Oaks and Rancho Mirage. During their travels, they have toured dozens of public and private botanical gardens throughout Europe, Morocco, South Africa, South America, and Asia. Closer to home, Rick and Sheila are members and donors to Lotusland since 2003 and are also members of The Lotus Society. They also support The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, Ventura Botanical Gardens, and The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert. Rick is also a member of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America and the Mediterranean Garden Society.
Crystal became enthralled with Lotusland after going on a tour in 2005 which led to her becoming a docent. She has gone on to co-chair the Lotusland Celebrates Gala four times and ultimately serving seven years on the Lotusland Board of Trustees (2012-2018). Crystal has remained involved at Lotusland as a member of the Governance Committee and recently served on the Search Committee. Crystal is in her first year on the board of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and is in her sixth year of being a board member at the Santa Barbara Zoo. She is a longtime Santa Barbara resident and enjoys committing her talents to the benefit of non-profits that serve the public good, especially those related to animals, health, and the environment. Crystal and her husband Cliff have been Lotusland Members since 2005.