Two more $1-million gifts presented to Selby Gardens

About 91% of funds secured for Phase 1 of master plan project

A 2020 image on Selby Gardens’ website shows how the master plan would be completed on the attraction’s downtown Sarasota campus. Image from the website

Within the past week, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has received two more gifts of $1 million to help pay for the first phase of the attraction’s downtown Sarasota master plan, the Gardens has announced.

As of June 2, Selby Gardens had raised more than 91% — $39 million — of the $42.5 million needed to implement Phase 1, a news release said.

On May 25, the Gardens recognized a $1 million gift from Susan and Zuheir Sofia — the third of that amount that the Gardens had received in two weeks.

Then, on June 2, Selby Gardens reported that Audrey Robbins and Harry Leopold had made a $1-million gift “in honor of Audrey’s son, Thomas F. Malone III (Trey), who passed away in 2012.”

“Selby Gardens is a jewel in our community,” said Susan Sofia in the May 25 news release. “It attracts visitors from all over the world and focuses on the environment, horticulture, and education,” she added. “Selby Gardens’ transformational Master Plan aligns with our passion for advancing Sarasota’s cultural institutions and connects our community with the region and the world,” Zuheir Sofia said in the release

A former banker and public school educator, Susan Sofia is a member of Selby Gardens’ Advisory Committee, the release noted. “She is an avid supporter of Sarasota’s arts and educational communities,” it continued; she also serves on the boards of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) Florida Sun Coast Gold Chapter.

Zuheir Sofia is chair and CEO of Business Bank of Florida and senior adviser of Elizabeth Park Capital, the May 25 release pointed out. He also is the past president, COO, and director of Huntington Bancshares, it added, as well as the former chair of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees, The James Cancer Hospital, and Columbus Symphony Orchestra

In the two news releases, Jennifer Rominiecki, president & CEO of Selby Gardens, expressed her gratitude for the gifts and her excitement about the fundraising success thus far for the master plan.

The three-phase project “will take several years to complete,” the releases point out. “Selby Gardens’ trustees, leadership donors and campaign co-chairs Jean Weidner Goldstein, Cornelia Matson and Pauline L. Wamsler are spearheading the fundraising effort, Innovating a Greener Future- Living Inspiration for The Living Museum®: The Campaign for Selby Gardens,” the releases noted.