Trustees And Administration
Board of Trustees
R. Stephen Best
Raised in Deep Creek, R. Stephen Best began a long and dedicated career ministering to the citizens of Chesapeake. After serving as a Volunteer Firefighter at age 16, Steve worked with the Chesapeake Fire Department from 1974 until his retirement in 2010. During his 36 year career, Chief Best served as the City’s Fire Marshal, Assistant and Deputy Fire Marshal, and Fire Chief and Emergency Services Coordinator. An engaged member of the community and an active member of his Church, Steve has also served as Project Director for the Hampton Roads Regional Catastrophic Planning Team through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, CEO of the Southeast Virginia Community Foundation, and Councilmen to the Chesapeake City Council. He was honored as Chesapeake’s First Citizen in 2015. Mr. Best holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Governmental Administration, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and a Juris Doctor from the Regent University School of Law. Appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Beazley Foundation in 2021, Steve continues to serve the community he loves. Mr. Best and his wife enjoy spending time with their expanding family that includes two sons, two daughters-in-law, and a grandson.
Judge Richard S. Bray
Judge Bray, a native of Portsmouth and a product of its public schools, graduated from Randolph-Macon College and the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. Following a tenure as law clerk to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawrence W. I’Anson, Judge Bray practiced law in the City of Chesapeake until 1989, when he was elected Judge of the Circuit Court of the City of Portsmouth. In 1991, he was elected a Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia. Named a Trustee of the Foundation in 1994, Judge Bray retired from the Court of Appeals in 2002 to become Foundation President and CEO. In 2009, he was selected Chesapeake’s First Citizen.
Judge Diane Pomeroy Griffin
Judge Griffin’s service on the Foundation Board began in 1997. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary, she commenced her legal career as an associate with the Legal Aid Society, later beginning a solo private practice in the City of Portsmouth. Judge Griffin was a founder of the Tidewater Women’s bar Association and the Virginia Women Attorneys Association and served as President of the Portsmouth Bar Association. After a decades-long successful family law practice, she was elected in 2018 to serve as a Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court Judge for the City of Portsmouth. In recognition of Judge Griffin’s extensive community service, Governor Gerald L. Baliles awarded her Virginia’s Gold Medal for Voluntary Excellence, and she was named Portsmouth’s First Citizen in 2002.
P. Ward Robinett, Jr.
A native of Portsmouth, Mr. Robinett has served as a Foundation Trustee since 1992. Following graduation from Churchland High School and North Carolina Wesleyan College, he began a career in banking that spanned 42 years. He was recognized for his unselfish service to the community as First Citizen in 1989. Additionally, he served two terms on Portsmouth City Council. He is a founding Officer and Director of TowneBank. Today, Mr. Robinett is retired from banking but continues to serve on several boards.
Lawrence Warren I'Anson III
Lawrence Warren I’Anson, III began his service as a Trustee of the Foundation in 2012. His father, Lawrence W. I’Anson, Jr. (Larry), was President of the Foundation for 15 years, succeeding Lawrence’s grandfather, The Honorable Lawrence W. I’Anson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, a confidant and advisor to Mr. Beazley from the origination of the Foundation in 1948. Lawrence received his undergraduate degree from the College of William & Mary and JD degree from the College’s Marshall Wythe School of Law. He practiced law in Portsmouth, Virginia, for 18 years with the firm of Bangel, Bangel & Bangel, and now practices with the law firm of Crandall & Katt in Roanoke. Lawrence remains active in professional associations, his community and church.
W. Ashton Lewis
Mr. Lewis, a lifelong resident of Hampton Roads, was educated in the public schools of Chesapeake and graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1968. Returning home, he joined his father in the family automobile business, Bill Lewis Chevrolet. As a result of Mr. Lewis’ record of commitment to community, including gratuitous service as President of Eastern Virginia Medical School, he was chosen Portsmouth’s First Citizen in 1988. Elected to the Foundation Board in 1990, he is currently an active principal in the First Team Auto group.
An accomplished attorney with the firm of Williams Mullen, Christine Piersall has distinguished herself both professionally and in service to her community. Her B.A. degree from the University of Virginia in 1997 was followed by graduation Magna Cum Laude from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2001. Ms. Piersall’s extraordinary professional skills earned recognition among the Best Lawyers in America, the “Legal Elite” by Virginia Business Magazine and the “Top Forty Under 40” by Inside Business. Her impressive array of civic activities include past presidency of the Portsmouth Museums Foundation, sustaining support of the Portsmouth Service League and the Portsmouth Partnership. Today she serves on the Board of Directors of Williams Mullen and as Chair of the Williams Mullen Estate Planning and Fiduciary Service Practice and remains active in the Wills for Seniors Pro Bono Programs.
John W. Failes
Mr. Failes, a Portsmouth native who joined the Foundation Board in 2009, is a 1967 Finance graduate and a 1970 Accounting graduate of Virginia Tech. After serving two years in the U.S. Army and completing his education, he began his career as a CPA and subsequently founded Failes & Associates, of which he was CEO until his retirement in 2000. His firm was recognized as one of the ten largest firms in the state of Virginia for eight consecutive years, and he was selected by Virginia Business Magazine as a Super CPA. His community involvements include being a director of TowneBank, Princess Anne Bank, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Commonwealth College, American Cancer Society, Girl’s Club of Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Retirement Board, and the Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University Accounting Boards.
Kara Davis Wood
Kara came to the Foundation in January of 2021 after a 23 year career as an English teacher. Having spent five years at Tidewater Community College, two years at Lakeland High School, and 18 years at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Kara understands the value of education in all of its levels and forms. A native of Portsmouth, Kara also appreciates the beauty, diversity, and struggles of this unique area. Kara received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. As an Honor Council Faculty Sponsor, an English Department Chairperson, Class Dean, and Student Activities Coordinator, she brings an array of skills to the Foundation; as a mother of two, Kara displays a sense of humor and exercises a wealth of compassion in her interactions with co-workers, Trustees, and local non-profits. Kara is thrilled to be back in Portsmouth assisting the Foundation in all of the good that it does for a place that has meant so much to her.
Ms. Carlson graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, PA with a degree in accounting. In 1999, she joined the Foundation’s administrative staff in her present capacity, which includes financial oversight, accounting, reporting and related internal controls.
Board of Trustee Meeting Dates
February 15, 2024
May 16, 2024
August 15, 2024
November 14, 2024