Van Wezel Foundation Names Laura Hennessey Chief Operating Officer

Laura Hennessey

SARASOTA, November 18, 2021 – The Van Wezel Foundation (Foundation) is pleased to announce that after a national search led by WittKieffer, Laura Hennessey joined the Foundation’s executive leadership team as Chief Operating Officer on November 15, 2021. Hennessey, an accomplished senior executive with two decades of cross-sector experience in strategic planning, project management, civic affairs, public relations, and operational leadership, will manage the Foundation’s day-to-day operations as it leads the creation and operations of the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center.

“Laura’s impressive career and extensive qualifications make her well suited to lead operations for the Foundation at this pivotal time,” said Foundation CEO Cheryl Mendelson. “Laura’s breadth of experience and enthusiasm will make a meaningful impact as we advance the vision for a new performing arts center for Sarasota and the region.”

Hennessey joins the Foundation after seven years at the University of Virginia. In 2018, Hennessey was promoted to the enterprise leadership team at the University’s Darden School of Business where she led daily operations of the newly constructed campus in the DC metro market, as well as planned and implemented the return to onsite operations for both Charlottesville and DC Metro campuses throughout the height of the COVID 19 pandemic. Hennessey’s experience includes overseeing operations within facilities management, project construction management, budget and finance, HR, IT, and working with government entities, community stakeholders, and business and philanthropic constituents to advance public-private partnerships and alliances.

“I am honored to be part of the executive leadership team at the Foundation,” said Hennessey. “I look forward to working with the dedicated staff, Board of Directors, and wide range of community partners committed to bringing the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center to life – a world-class civic asset that will impact generations to come.”

Hennessey holds a Bachelor of Science from Boston College and a Master of Science from Boston University. Growing up in a household heavily influenced by the performing arts, Hennessey has a deep appreciation for the performing arts, theater, and music, and enjoys creating platforms to share the arts with others.


The Van Wezel Foundation’s mission is to create and sustain a vibrant performing arts center, advance education, and enrich communities by inspiring minds through the power of the arts. The Foundation has partnered with the City of Sarasota since 1987 to support arts education throughout our region, serving more than 50,000 students with enriching arts-based education opportunities and professional development for more than 400 teachers across five counties. To foster a connection between the people, the bay and the spirit of human creativity, the Foundation is leading The Future is Now Campaign, a master plan for Bayfront development that includes a new performing arts center. To learn more about the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center and get involved, visit For more information on the Foundation and its mission, visit, or join us on Facebook and Instagram.


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