Preserving Florida’s environmental treasures provides more than sanctuary for wildlife in the eyes of Christine Purvis Johnson. The president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast grew up in this region and her family lived in the Sunshine State for generations before her—the lands saved in perpetuity are those where her ancestors laid the foundation for her own life. So what today became the most important things in this executive’s world? 

Duette Preserve

I grew up in Ellenton and spent so much time in Duette when I was in middle and high school. To me it’s home. In spring, you can just get intoxicated with orange blossoms surrounding the preserve. It's dry prairie, which is a worldwide-endangered habitat, so you can see reptiles and birds you don’t see other places. It’s so big you can go out there and not see another soul. I go there constantly. It was a great place to grow up.

Queen Elizabeth I

She changed history forever, not only for what she accomplished in government but as well as proving woman can do it. She did not get married and she stayed in power for so long. She was an imperfect ruler, but at the same time made great strides for her country at great personal costs. Queen Elizabeth was the first powerful woman, and I just admire that.

Mother’s Jewels

I wear a piece of her jewelry every day. It’s like having a piece of her with me. I lost my mom (Connie Purvis) when she was 62, which was kind of young. I was 41. It was always very important to her that we knew why she accumulated jewelry—it was just for us. She was a child of the Depression and grew up very poor, and she didn’t have anything of any value from her parents or grandparents that could be passed down to her. She wanted to hand down a collection of jewelry to us. There is a story behind every piece—some are wonderful, some are just nostalgic. It’s fun jewelry, not something worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it was important to her.

SCUBA Diving 

I’ve always enjoyed water, whether it’s swimming as exercise, paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking and now SCUBA diving. I love going to the Keys with my kids now that they are old enough. I love exploration and the quiet. I’m a very verbal person, so whenever I don’t have words coming out of me, it’s like giving my brain a nap, so I find that quiet just absolutely enjoyable.

Caroline Johnson

My mother-in-law gave me an understanding and perspective of a well-seasoned not-for-profit board member and the real difference between being an executive director and being on the board. She has been chair of the boards for The Ringling, Ringling College and the Selby Foundation. She is currently at Planned Parenthood. She just has such deep experience.

America: The Owner’s Manual, Sen. Bob Graham 

Graham says we can all engage with the US government in civil and reasonable ways to create change. Whether that’s writing a letter to a Congressman or running for office, there is so much each of us can do. He has these case studies too, which are all interesting.

Pete Eckhoff

One of my bosses at Arthur Anderson. I loved his style of management. He did the best job possible at getting the best out of his team and still having a good time. He challenged you but at the same time rewarded you. And he recognized what his role was—when to get involved and when not to get involved in work. He allowed people to rise to the level of the expectations placed upon them and created a work hard, play hard culture.

A Land Remembered. Patrick Smith

One of my favorite books. This was the gift we gave at the Palm Ball this year. It’s an incredible history of Florida. And since I’m a fifth-generation Floridian, it really is the story of my ancestry as well. It’s a good book anyway, but for me it tells a history of my family. 

Home Dinners

Any executive director for a not-for-profit gets paid to eat, and we get to go to so many events, lunches and dinners. So eating at home with a few close friends is a treat—it’s not the norm. I love communal cooking as well. If you get invited to dinner at my house you will be put to work and we will have great conversation and wine while we do it. I love baking all kinds of desserts and bread. My daughter is making challah on a regular basis now; I take pleasure in knowing I taught her how.

Molly’s—A Chic and Unique Boutique

Molly’s is one the only shops where I go when I try to find a nice present for a host or hostess. It’s about finding something special, and Molly’s is just so much fun. It’s a wide-ranging gift selection with some funny gifts and motifs or sayings.

Plants, Pots & More

Somehow, Awesome Orchids always has the best pots, so it’s not just the orchid. The pot is usually sculpted well and with different tones. My husband collects orchids, and it’s personal for us when we give an orchid to someone.

Jackson, Wyoming

You are at these high altitudes, so you are at least a mile into the atmosphere. From the sky down to the grass and water, there are majestic tetons that come out of nowhere and that rise straight into the sky. My favorite time of year to go is August when the wild flowers all bloom. It’s completely different than what I was exposed to growing up in Florida.