Serving on the board of directors for the Florida United Methodist Foundation can be a 9-year commitment. Consequently, the people who accept the invitation develop a long-term view when it comes to vision, planning and continuity.
Robert B. White, the foundation’s newly appointed board chairperson, has served since 2010, including as vice chairperson since 2015 and chairperson of the loan committee for many years. The long view is exactly in his wheelhouse.
“When you undertake accepting a role where you know the commitment is nine years, that’s not a commitment you take lightly,” White said.
That long-term perspective has also marked White’s role as an Orlando attorney specializing in commercial transactions and litigation for 40-plus years.
“I’m still practicing law because I’m fortunate enough to have long-term clients and I enjoy doing their work,” White said. “And because I actually enjoy helping people.”
That sense of purpose spills into the community, where White is vice chairman of the board of directors for WMFE 90.7, Orlando’s public radio station.
“I have the ability to make a difference,” he said. “I enjoy that and do what I can to protect some of the institutions that must be protected.”
When White joined the foundation’s board in 2010, he served with the Rev. Mark Becker, who was later appointed as the foundation’s president, overseeing day-to-day operations.
“We got to know each other well,” White said. “I have always appreciated Mark’s intellect and style. I think because we worked together before, with an appreciation for each other’s talents, this will be an easy and comfortable fit.”
White says his role is to support Becker’s efforts. “The president gets things done,” White said. “The board simply provides him with the tools he needs.”
In turn, Becker is expansive in his praise for White’s leadership.
“Bob has an excellent working knowledge of the foundation’s operations and its goals for the future,” he said. “I have known Bob for many years now. He brings a special set of gifts, he has spent many hours providing guidance to management on potential legal issues, and he has a lot of experience understanding the role of a board in a complex nonprofit environment. I admire his dedication, and I trust his judgment.”
White believes the foundation is particularly effective because of a knowledgeable and experienced senior staff.
“Continuity is extremely important,” White said. “The strength of the foundation is their experience. Relationships are what you have to have.”
Looking forward, White said he would like to see the foundation diversifying its approach to assisting churches financially and how and to whom it makes loans from its Development Fund.
“In this world, diversification is key to continued success,” he said.
At the root of White’s service is his deep faith and commitment to preserving the witness of the church.
“I’m a Christian who believes in my heart and soul that the only way in which we’re going to have a life for our children and grandchildren is if the goals and the principles and the values of Christianity are preserved and made available for people,” he said.
To that end, the Florida United Methodist Foundation has a fierce and deeply committed advocate in White.
Members of the board are elected annually by the foundation’s membership to serve three-year terms and a maximum of nine consecutive years.
White, whose term ends in 2019, succeeded Julia Mercier, partner at Mercier CPA Associates in Englewood. Mercier served on the board for nine years, including the last two as chairperson.
“As a CPA, she brought a valuable set of skills to the operation of the foundation, and as an owner of her own business, she provided a perspective as to what it takes to run a successful business,” Becker said. “She has been an incredible asset to the foundation, and I look forward to seeking her advice and counsel in the future.”
* Maul is freelance writer based in Wake Forest, North Carolina.