Our Board & Staff
Dianne Harnell Cohen | Chair
One of the first two homeowners to purchase a lot in Serenbe, Dianne has served on the Serenbe Institute Board for five years. She has chaired the Governance Committee which developed Serenbe Institute’s Strategic Plan, the nominating committee, and has served as Chair Elect. Dianne has served on many boards including chairing United Way Allocations, Park Pride, Piedmont Park Conservancy, the Atlanta Urban League, Leadership Atlanta and Success by Six. Dianne previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Roy Barnes, Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs for Mayor Shirley Franklin and currently is proud to be affiliated with Atlanta Fine Homes/Sotheby’s International Realty.
Penny McPhee | Treasurer
Penny is the president and trustee of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Penny joined the Blank Family Foundation in 2004, from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where she led the $1.8 billion foundation’s grant-making programs. Before entering the field of philanthropy, Penny had a distinguished career as a television producer and author. Her television programs have won five Emmys, as well as other prestigious awards. For seven years she was on the staff of WPBT, Miami’s public broadcasting station, where she launched its cultural affairs department and served as executive producer of cultural programming. Penny has a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and was graduated with honors from Wellesley College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English and theater arts.
Tom Reed | Secretary
Maria is a partner at Ernst & Young where she leads transformational projects in supply chain and operations for the consumer goods and retail sectors in the Americas. Prior to her work with EY, she founded and managed MRM+ Partners, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. Other professional experiences include The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, and the Science and Technology Financing Fund COLCIENCIAS. She has taught and worked at Georgia Tech, Georgetown University, Los Andes University, Coca-Cola University and Universidad Latina in Panama City, Panama. Maria holds a Ph.D from Cranfield University, an MS from Georgia Tech and an MA from Javeriana University in Conjunction with Paris IV.
Shirley Mitchell Ferrell
John Graham | Founding Executive Director
A current resident of Serenbe, John has served the Institute since 2005 and has overseen it's incredible growth to a $1m+ regional leader on the issues of cultural and environmental sustainability. He has held executive positions at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Southern Methodist University's Center for Arts Administration and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. John currently serves on the City of Chattahoochee Hills Parks Commission.
Gretchen E. Butler | Director of Operations
Gretchen joined the Serenbe Institute in 2017 after three years as the Managing Director at the Serenbe Playhouse. She is responsible for creating and implementing strategies that will grow the Institute's programmatic and regional impact. Gretchen has been working as an arts administrator for over 20 years. She received her BA in Theatre from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1998, and her MFA in Theatre Management from the Hilberry Theatre at Wayne State University in 2001. Upon completion of that degree, Gretchen moved to Atlanta and spent 5 years as a freelance Stage Manager. In 2006, Gretchen joined the staff of Georgia Ensemble Theatre as their Production Manager, a position she held for 8 years. In the summer of 2014, Gretchen joined Serenbe Playhouse as their Company Manager and in January of 2015 became their first Managing Director. Gretchen is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Atlanta Woman's Club. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Kingswood United Methodist Church and the Capital Campaign Committee of The Sunflower Initiative, which funds scholarships for students attending women's colleges.