Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) welcomed new members to its Board of Directors as well as other changes during its recent board retreat.

During the retreat, immediate past-president Jackie Meck passed the gavel to Dorian Turner. Canopy also added three new members to the board. Gerard Gibert, Robert Leard and LaToya Merritt will each serve three-year terms. Two long-standing members, Margo Swain and Red Moffat, became emeritus members of the board.

“Our board is comprised of some of the state’s most passionate thought-leaders who are committed to advancing our mission to transform the lives of children and families who face extraordinary challenges,” said John D. Damon, Ph.D., Canopy’s CEO. “We are deeply grateful for their service and in continuing the rich heritage of providing solutions for Mississippi’s most vulnerable children for over 100 years.”

Gerard Gibert

Gerard Gibert is an entrepreneur, technologist and innovative thought leader with a long list of accolades contributed to his success in the entrepreneurial technology related to healthcare innovation.

Gibert founded Venture Technologies in 1986, a technology solutions provider headquartered in Ridgeland, Miss., where he served as the company’s CEO until its sale in January of 2019. At the time of the acquisition, Venture was listed as the 33rd largest private business in Mississippi according to the Mississippi Business Journal.

Active in business and public policy, Gibert has a long history of public service. In 2018, he was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant as the Vice Chairman to the Mississippi Lottery Corporation Board of Directors. He’s also a member of the Madison County Economic Development Authority and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Empower Mississippi, which focuses heavily on removing barriers to success through education freedom and criminal justice reform. Gibert helps to spawn new business in Mississippi as Chairman to the Steering Committee to Innovate Mississippi and its adjacent Central Mississippi Angel Fund that invests in local healthcare-related startup companies. He is a frequent business commentator and speaker in academic, political, business and media outlets.

Gibert earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi in 1980 and earned the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals’ (ICCP) Certified Computing Professional designation by passing all five exams on his first attempt in 1984.

Gibert and his wife Julie reside in Ridgeland, Miss. Together, they have two adult children. He and his family are active members of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. In his spare time, Gibert enjoys golf, coaching youth sports, flying as an instrument-rated private pilot, writing, speaking, broadcasting and gardening.

Robert Leard

Robert Leard has been with Regions Bank for more than two decades and now serves as Market Executive and Commercial Banking Leader for the Jackson Metro area.

Leard joined Regions Bank, then known as AmSouth, in 1995 as a consumer credit policy officer and has held several leadership roles, including business banking executive and regional credit executive. Prior to that, he served in various roles within Trustmark Bank.

An active member in the community, Leard serves as an Executive Board Member for Habitat for Humanity of the Capital Area, Mississippi Higher Education Assistance Corporation, the Woodward Hines Educational Foundation, the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of the Mississippi Bankers Association Legislative Committee and of the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Economic Council. He is also a former Executive Board member for the Andrew Jackson Council BSA and the Metro Jackson YMCA.

Leard is an alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Business Administration. Leard and his wife, Ginger, have been married for 30 years and have three children. They are active members of the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson.

LaToya C. Merritt

 LaToya Merritt is a community leader and experienced litigator with Phelps Dunbar. For nearly 20 years, Merritt has practiced in the area of labor and employment with a focus on Civil Rights and Title VII, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. She currently serves as the deputy practice coordinator of Phelps Dunbar’s Jackson labor and employment group.

Her expertise finds Merritt presenting before numerous national and regional professional conventions and entities on human resources, social issues, and compliance-related legal topics. An important component of Merritt’s practice entails representing educational institutions, particularly colleges and universities, including historically black colleges and universities, in suits alleging civil rights and constitutional law violations.

Merritt was named The Best Lawyers in America© (Woodward/White, Inc.), in 2019, Mississippi Business Journal Leadership in Law Class of 2018, as well as National Bar Association’s Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 Award in 2010, in addition to a host of other awards and accolades for her work professionally and personally in areas of education, civil rights and humanitarian efforts.

Merritt is an alumna of Grambling State University and received her Juris Doctorate from North Carolina Central University in 2000. She served as a law clerk under the Hon. William J. Hayes, Jr., of the U.S. District Court in middle Tennessee. She has also devoted a decade of service as General Counsel to The Piney Woods School, which was established in 1909.

 New Board Leadership

Canopy Children’s Solutions is also pleased to announce the following slate of board officers for 2019- 2021:

  • Dorian Turner – President
  • Lisa Bemis – Vice President
  • Randy Eure – Secretary
  • Andy Taggart – Assistant Secretary
  • Brad Maley – Treasurer
  • Larry Accardi – Assistant Treasurer


  • Robert Abney
  • John Arledge
  • Lauren Benner
  • Richard C. Bradley III
  • Jamie Chustz
  • Helen Dalehite
  • Barney Daly
  • Dave Dennis
  • Joe Donaldson
  • Alfredo Donelson
  • Carol A. Edmonds
  • Larry Favreau
  • Gerard Gibert
  • Bill Grete
  • Monica Harrigill
  • Lynn Hosemann
  • Craig Jackson
  • Will Lampton
  • Robert Leard
  • Laurie McRee
  • Jackie Meck
  • LaToya Merritt
  • Jill Pierce
  • Charlotte Seals
  • Bryman Williams
  • Sherribeth Wright


  • Arthur (Skipper) Jernigan, Jr.
  • Auburn Lambeth
  • Red Moffat
  • David Sanders
  • Jack Spradling
  • Ben Stone
  • Margo Swain

Founded in 1912 on the belief that every child deserves a permanent, loving home, Canopy has since evolved to become the state’s most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social services. With locations across the state, Canopy serves all 82 counties to help ensure every child can be a success story.

For more information about Canopy Children’s Solutions, please visit or call 800-388-6247.