University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



Carlton, Michel, Withers appointed to Campus Advisory Board at USF Sarasota-Manatee campus; Jain reappointed

Campus Building

The University of South Florida welcomed Lisa Carlton, Diana Michel and Ernie Withers to the Sarasota-Manatee Campus Advisory Board during its fall meeting on Wednesday. Board member Dr. Anila Jain, a distinguished alumna and longtime USF supporter, also began a new four-year term.

The USF Board of Trustees approved the appointments during its September meeting. The Campus Advisory Boards on the branch campuses consist of seven members appointed by the Board of Trustees for staggered four-year terms. The campus faculty Senate chair and Student Government campus governor also serve as ex officio members.

Karen Holbrook

Karen A. Holbrook

The campus board is responsible for submitting to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, through the USF president, an approved annual operating plan, budget and legislative budget request for its respective branch campus.

“The new board members represent a diverse range of talents, experience and interests and all have strong ties to the community,” said Karen A. Holbrook, regional chancellor of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “They care deeply about the success of our university and serving our community and will bring different perspectives to the Campus Advisory Board. I also want to compliment the people who are already serving on our board and thank them for their dedication.”

In addition to Jain and the three new members, other Campus Advisory Board members include Chair and USF Trustee Byron E. Shinn, Bill Mariotti and Rick Piccolo.

The membership change occurred after former member David Eckel completed his term earlier this year and as the board expanded from five to seven members as mandated in the Florida legislation that brought about the consolidation of the three USF campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee.

Carlton is an eighth-generation Floridian who, along with her husband, Rob Robinson, owns and manages the Mabry Carlton Ranch, a cattle and citrus operation in Sarasota County.

Lisa Carlton

Lisa Carlton

An attorney, she is known for her distinguished service as a Florida legislator. Carlton was elected to represent the 70th District in the Florida House of Representatives in 1994. After two terms, she was elected to represent the 23rd District of the Florida Senate in 1998, where she contributed to the establishment of the current Sarasota-Manatee campus that opened in 2006. She served as appropriations chair under three Senate presidents and was president pro tempore of the Senate during the 2006-2008 term.

Carlton serves as a member of the board of directors of Sarasota-based FCCI Insurance Group and is a founding member of the Florida Historic Capitol Foundation. Carlton’s record of public service has earned her recognition from many local and state organizations including Girls Inc., Stetson University, State College of Florida, the Sarasota Coalition on Substance Abuse, Florida Forever and USF. She has been honored with numerous awards for her work on red tide research and beach re-nourishment, and has received education awards from groups representing students, teachers, superintendents and school boards.

She graduated from Stetson University in Deland and attended law school at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and is the mother of three children.

Michel, a USF alumna who graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1988, is an ardent and longtime supporter of USF and the Sarasota-Manatee campus. She has served on the campus Alumni Association Board and was one of the founding members of the Brunch on the Bay committee that organizes the campus’ largest community fundraising event. Michel also served on the Sarasota-Manatee Community Leadership Council, received the campus’ distinguished alumni award and is a member of the Women in STEM Committee.

Diana Michel

Diana Michel

She recently established a scholarship in memory of her father, James E. Carla, to support student veterans at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, and earlier established the Barbara Michel Endowed Scholarship for USF Culinary Scholarships, in honor of her late mother-in-law.

Michel founded a marketing company, Michel Sports Marketing, in 1995, and has worked as a real estate professional for 20 years, currently licensed as a global luxury specialist with Coldwell Banker. In 2015, she founded Triax Precision Manufacturing with two partners to serve the automotive, medical, marine, aerospace and industrial-equipment markets in the United States, Costa Rica and Panama.

She has served on numerous boards and committees, both in connection with USF and in the Sarasota-Manatee community and beyond, including, among many others, the boards of the Sarasota High Cambridge AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education), Cotillion Club of Sarasota, Impact 100 SRQ, Sarasota Crew and March of Dimes (national board). 

She and her husband, William, have two children.

Withers, a Youngstown, Ohio native, has enjoyed a distinguished 40-year career in the automotive industry and currently serves as general manager of Mercedes Benz of Sarasota.

Ernie Withers

Ernie Withers

He serves as both chair of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and trustee of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he is a board member for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Association, the Sarasota Salvation Army (Advisory Board) and the Manatee DeSoto Historical Society.

Mercedes Benz of Sarasota received the JD Power Dealer of Excellence Award in January 2020, the same night he took the helm of the Manatee Chamber.

Withers is a Miami Dade College North Campus and USF alumnus, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree from USF in social and behavioral sciences. While attending the university, he wrestled for the USF Wrestling Club in 1975 and 1976 and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in March.

He is married to Manatee County native Cindy Lou, whom he met in 1974 during an orientation class for transfer students at USF. The couple will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary next year. They have three children and eight grandchildren, all residing in Manatee County.

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit

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