Snell & Wilmer’s Refo becomes president of the American Bar Association

Snell & Wilmer announced that Patricia Lee Refo has been sworn in as the 144th president of the American Bar Association. Refo is the second Arizona-based attorney and 10th woman to be elected ABA president.

“I am honored to serve the ABA’s members and walk in the footsteps of so many legal giants,” Refo said. “This moment presents a unique opportunity to advance the ABA’s mission and lead the profession in finding new tools all attorneys can use to better serve their clients. Now, more than ever, our nation’s lawyers will step up to help solve the challenges we face.” 

Refo, who has been an attorney at Snell & Wilmer for 24 years, became the first ABA president to be sworn in virtually, accepting the honor by video from the porch of the Sandra Day O’Connor House in Tempe due to safety concerns caused by the pandemic. She was sworn in by Arizona’s Judge Mary Schroeder, the first woman to serve as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on the patio of the home of Arizona’s Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

“Focusing on the legal needs of our nation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic will remain a top priority for the ABA under my leadership,” Refo said. “We will continue our work to address the pandemic and its impact on our justice system. The legal needs arising out of the pandemic are incalculable – in evictions, foreclosures, bankruptcies, domestic violence and so many other matters. At the same time, we will help lawyers and our justice system to adapt to this new virtual environment.” 

Snell & Wilmer chair joins United Way board of directors

Snell & Wilmer announced that Chair Matthew P. Feeney has joined the Valley of the Sun United Way Board of Directors.   

Valley of the Sun United Way has served Maricopa County for 95 years, with a focus on health and human services and education. In January, United Way launched its 2020 priorities to open itself up to the community, to seek insights on the greatest issues facing the Valley, to obtain community input on United Way’s role in solving those issues and to strengthen its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. When COVID-19 struck the Valley in March, United Way launched the United for the Valley COVID-19 Fund, which raised $2.9 million and continues to support local non-profits and schools that serve those impacted by the pandemic. 

At Snell & Wilmer, Feeney’s practice is concentrated in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings, SEC reporting and compliance, and corporate governance matters, including advising corporate boards and board committees. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree, magna cum laude, from Notre Dame Law School. 

Throughout the course of his career, Feeney has been recognized for professional and community service excellence. Among his many professional awards, Feeney has consistently been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America© (including Lawyer of the Year, Securities Law/Capital Markets Law (2015), Lawyer of the Year, Corporate Governance Law (2018) and Lawyer of the Year, Mergers & Acquisitions Law (2012); Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business; and Southwest Super Lawyers.

UMOM names next CEO

UMOM New Day Centers, Arizona’s innovative leader in shelter, supportive services and housing for families, single women and youth experiencing homelessness, announced today that its board of directors has unanimously selected Jackson Fonder as the organization’s next chief executive officer. Fonder, who currently serves as Catholic Charities President & CEO in Madison, Wisconsin, will return to Phoenix to succeed current CEO Darlene Newsom, who announced her planned retirement earlier this year.  He will join the organization on October 12, 2020. 

Fonder has more than 25 years of leadership experience, developing and implementing strategic plans on behalf of nonprofit organizations as well as in the private sector. In addition to his current role, his experience includes leadership roles in the United States Air Force and as an Executive Director of USAA in Phoenix.  He has substantial experience in serving our most vulnerable population and brings a track record of innovation and building strong work cultures to UMOM. In addition to his undergraduate and graduate degrees, Fonder attended nonprofit leadership programs at Harvard Business School and Arizona State University.

“After a comprehensive search process, the board is pleased to have selected an outstanding individual to lead this organization,” said Kristine Newman, chair of UMOM’s board of directors and Executive Vice President of McCarthy Holdings, Inc. “Jackson’s track record of strong leadership in the private and non-profit sectors combined with his relevant human services experience and demonstrated ability to build coalitions and innovate make him uniquely qualified to lead UMOM successfully into the future.”

“I am deeply humbled and honored to join the UMOM team and help make our vision of breaking the cycle of homelessness a reality.  I look forward to working alongside the talented staff and committed volunteers to lead UMOM into the future,” Fonder said about the opportunity.

The selection of Fonder caps a national search process that was facilitated by Tower Hunter, a Phoenix-based executive search firm specializing in placing executives at non-profit organizations. 

Great Hearts names new CEO

The Great Hearts America Board of Directors has appointed founding Chairman Jay Heiler as Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

Heiler and President of the Great Hearts Foundation Dan Scoggin, along with now-Chairman of the Great Hearts Arizona Network School Governing Board Bob Mulhern, led the creation of Great Hearts nearly 20 years ago with 130 students in a leased church building. They have since labored with numerous dedicated colleagues to build the highly-regarded non-profit network of classical liberal arts academies to more than 22,000 students and 2,500 teachers in Arizona and Texas.   

As CEO, Heiler will oversee the continued success and growth of the charter management organization and its high-performing academies. He will report to the Great Hearts America Board of Directors, where longtime board member Kurt Davis has been appointed by the board to replace him as chairman.  Heiler has also passed the gavel as Chairman of the Board of Great Hearts Texas, to founding board member Shannon Sedgwick Davis. (No relation to Kurt Davis.) 

Currently a member of Phoenix law firm BeusGibertMcGroder, Heiler will transition to Great Hearts beginning August 3. He is working now in transition with outgoing CEO Dr. Wade Dyke, recently appointed President of on-line higher education provider American Public University. Dr. Dyke will continue to support the transition and the advance of the organization as a consultant to Heiler and the Board. 

Heiler is former Chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, governing body for Arizona’s three state universities, to which he was appointed an eight-year term in 2012 by then-Governor Jan Brewer. In 2013 he was named by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce as the state’s Innovative Leader of the Year. He has long championed polices in Arizona for the advance of public education, beginning with his service from 1992 to 1997 as Director of Policy and Chief of Staff for Governor Fife Symington. He served for nearly 12 years as Chairman of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, working across that time to advance and support quality in Arizona’s charter sector, which now educates more than 180,000 students and performs at nationally high levels as measured by recent norm-referenced testing across the country. 

VanTrust Real Estate names Keith Earnest EVP

VanTrust Real Estate, a full-service real estate development company with a regional focus and national scope, announced the promotion of Keith Earnest, to Executive Vice President of National Accounts. Previously leading the Southwest Regional Office of VanTrust, Earnest joined the firm in 2014, bringing his expertise in all phases of real estate development to the Arizona, Nevada and California markets.

Earnest is well-versed in project feasibility, market analysis, site acquisitions, entitlements, design and construction oversight, leasing and sales, working with regional, national and international companies through both speculative and build-to-suit platforms. 

“We have expanded Keith’s role in our company to take advantage of his depth of knowledge in our core business areas and build upon the relationships he has established over his dynamic 30-year career,” remarked Dave Harrison, VanTrust President. “In this role, Keith will continue to assist with existing VanTrust Phoenix projects while helping to expand our footprint across the United States.”

“This is an amazing opportunity for me and will allow me to focus on providing development services to new and existing customers in all of the markets we serve,” remarked Earnest.