Our Beginning

Discover the legacy of giving that is Mentors International.

Our Beginning

Discover the legacy of giving that is Mentors International.

Our Beginning

Founded on the Principle
of Providing a Hand Up

Founded in 1990, Mentors International has impacted more than 4.9 million people throughout some of the world’s most poverty-stricken developing nations. This life-changing work sprung from the efforts of a few transformative individuals who used their knowledge, experience, and determination to propel these millions of people to self-reliance.

They knew that by providing a hand up instead of a handout, they could permanently lift individuals and families from the depths of generational poverty. Each of these founders, past presidents, and former leaders have laid a strong foundation that has enabled this organization to stay true to our mission for more than three decades.

Today, through mergers and expansions, we continue to uphold that legacy with ever-increasing fervor and effectiveness. In 2019, Mentors International merged operations with Lifting Generations, which was built upon the merger of Cause for Hope and One Life at a Time in 2016. With the merger of Mentors International and Lifting Generations, we’ve become one of the largest mentoring organizations dedicated to transforming generational poverty into sustainable self-reliance. Continue reading to learn more about the founders, past presidents, and former leaders who have shaped this organization over the last 30 years.

Our Beginning

Founded on the Principle of Providing a Hand Up

Founded in 1990, Mentors International has impacted more than 4.9 million people throughout some of the world’s most poverty-stricken developing nations. This life-changing work sprung from the efforts of a few transformative individuals who used their knowledge, experience, and determination to propel these millions of people to self-reliance.

They knew that by providing a hand up instead of a handout, they could permanently lift individuals and families from the depths of generational poverty. Each of these founders, past presidents, and former leaders have laid a strong foundation that has enabled this organization to stay true to our mission for more than three decades.

Today, through mergers and expansions, we continue to uphold that legacy with ever-increasing fervor and effectiveness. In 2019, Mentors International merged operations with Lifting Generations, which was built upon the merger of Cause for Hope and One Life at a Time in 2016. With the merger of Mentors International and Lifting Generations, we’ve become one of the largest mentoring organizations dedicated to transforming generational poverty into sustainable self-reliance. Continue reading to learn more about the founders, past presidents, and former leaders who have shaped this organization over the last 30 years.

Our Founders, Past Presidents, and Past CEOs

Our Founders, Past Presidents, and Past CEOs

Founder

Menlo F. Smith

Menlo F. Smith is one of the principal founders of Mentors International. He is chairman of Sunmark Capital Corporation, a venture capital firm with interests in real estate, electronics, aircraft systems, industrial marking systems and other fields.

He served as founder and previous chairman and CEO of The Sunmark Companies, St. Louis, a group of companies operating internationally in snack foods and confectionery manufacturing and marketing, now a unit of The Nestle Company.

He currently serves on a number of corporate and charitable boards.

Click here to watch Menlo’s KSL interview to learn more.

Founder

Menlo F. Smith

Menlo F. Smith is one of the principal founders of Mentors International. He is chairman of Sunmark Capital Corporation, a venture capital firm with interests in real estate, electronics, aircraft systems, industrial marking systems and other fields.

He served as founder and previous chairman and CEO of The Sunmark Companies, St. Louis, a group of companies operating internationally in snack foods and confectionery manufacturing and marketing, now a unit of The Nestle Company.

He currently serves on a number of corporate and charitable boards.

Watch Menlo’s KSL interview to learn more.

Founder

Steven H. Mann

Steven H. Mann is a co-founder of Mentors International. Mr. Mann holds BA and MA degrees from BYU. Steve served on White House Advance Staff (1976) during President Gerald Ford election campaign. He was a partner in Zenger-Miller — a leading management and supervisory training firm acquired (1989) by Times Mirror. Mann was a co-founder of Pretzel-Time Inc. — the company was acquired by Mrs. Fields (1999).

Steve co-founded Deseret International Foundation with William Jackson (Deseret focuses on simple life-changing operations on children around the world — a model that focuses on strengthening and supporting local medical establishments. In 1999- 2001, he moved to Zimbabwe and under the Deseret name developed and implemented HIV/AIDS prevention programs that are still being taught in Zimbabwe schools and businesses.

While living in Zimbabwe, he also helped develop and implement HIV/AIDS prevention programs for the LDS Church, which were used throughout the East Africa Area.

Founder

Steven H. Mann

Steven H. Mann is a co-founder of Mentors International. Mr. Mann holds BA and MA degrees from BYU. Steve served on White House Advance Staff (1976) during President Gerald Ford election campaign. He was a partner in Zenger-Miller — a leading management and supervisory training firm acquired (1989) by Times Mirror. Mann was a co-founder of Pretzel-Time Inc. — the company was acquired by Mrs. Fields (1999).

Steve co-founded Deseret International Foundation with William Jackson (Deseret focuses on simple life-changing operations on children around the world — a model that focuses on strengthening and supporting local medical establishments. In 1999- 2001, he moved to Zimbabwe and under the Deseret name developed and implemented HIV/AIDS prevention programs that are still being taught in Zimbabwe schools and businesses.

While living in Zimbabwe, he also helped develop and implement HIV/AIDS prevention programs for the LDS Church, which were used throughout the East Africa Area.

Founder

Warner P. Woodworth

Warner P. Woodworth is a professor in the Department of Organizations Leadership and Strategy in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University (BYU). He is a leading advocate of the development of micro-credit and has been involved in researching as well as developing such programs.

Woodworth holds BS and MS degrees from BYU and an MA and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has also held various visiting scholar appointments including as the first Peter Drucker Centennial Scholar at the Drucker School of Management of Claremont Graduate University.

Among the organizations, Woodworth has helped to found have been Mentors International, Unitas Microcredit, and HELP-International.

Founder

Warner P. Woodworth

Warner P. Woodworth is a professor in the Department of Organizations Leadership and Strategy in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University (BYU). He is a leading advocate of the development of micro-credit and has been involved in researching as well as developing such programs.

Woodworth holds BS and MS degrees from BYU and an MA and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has also held various visiting scholar appointments including as the first Peter Drucker Centennial Scholar at the Drucker School of Management of Claremont Graduate University.

Among the organizations, Woodworth has helped to found have been Mentors International, Unitas Microcredit, and HELP-International.

Founder

Dan Gifford

Daniel G. Gifford founded Cause for Hope, a self-reliance accelerator with operations in five Latin countries and 20 offices that serve over 5,000 families.
He is a Partner of Renewable Tech Venture Fund who oversees investment activities in the U.S., Europe, and Latin countries. The fund invests in proprietary technology related to green materials and cleantech.

Dan earned an MBA degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management (cum laude) from Arizona State University.

Dan has extensive experience in economic development, strategic planning, and sales. He has spent much of his career in the real estate and economic development industries and has a deep understanding of international operations.

Dan married Heidi Nielson Gifford, together they have six children.

Founder

Dan Gifford

Daniel G. Gifford founded Cause for Hope, a self-reliance accelerator with operations in five Latin countries and 20 offices that serve over 5,000 families.
He is a Partner of Renewable Tech Venture Fund who oversees investment activities in the U.S., Europe, and Latin countries. The fund invests in proprietary technology related to green materials and cleantech.

Dan earned an MBA degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management (cum laude) from Arizona State University.

Dan has extensive experience in economic development, strategic planning, and sales. He has spent much of his career in the real estate and economic development industries and has a deep understanding of international operations.

Dan married Heidi Nielson Gifford, together they have six children.

Founder

Ross Farnsworth Jr.

The late Ross Nash Farnsworth Jr., is the founder of One Life at a Time.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Brigham Young University. After graduation Ross started a company called Farnsworth Holdings, acting as President and CEO.

Ross loved the people of Colombia and wanted to make a difference in their lives. He founded One Life at a Time as a means to educate the less fortunate and help them break the cycle of poverty.

Ross married Lori Ann Barnes and together they have six children and 14 grandchildren. Ross could often be found on the golf course, enjoying his family, and playing and watching sports. He loved his family, the Latin people, and helping others.

Ross passed away September 5, 2015, in Mesa, Arizona having lived a life full of the things that mattered most to him.

Founder

Ross Farnsworth Jr.

The late Ross Nash Farnsworth Jr., is the founder of One Life at a Time.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Brigham Young University. After graduation Ross started a company called Farnsworth Holdings, acting as President and CEO.

Ross loved the people of Colombia and wanted to make a difference in their lives. He founded One Life at a Time as a means to educate the less fortunate and help them break the cycle of poverty.

Ross married Lori Ann Barnes and together they have six children and 14 grandchildren. Ross could often be found on the golf course, enjoying his family, and playing and watching sports. He loved his family, the Latin people, and helping others.

Ross passed away September 5, 2015, in Mesa, Arizona having lived a life full of the things that mattered most to him.

Past President and CEO (2007 – 2017)

Mark L. Petersen

Mark L. Petersen served as the President and CEO of Mentors International for a decade before his untimely passing from cancer. Prior to working at Mentors International, Mark worked for 27 years in higher education administration at Weber State University and Dixie State University.

He served as the executive director of public relations and marketing for 17 years at Dixie State College and was then appointed by the president to open the new Eccles Fine Arts Center at the university as Executive Director of Cultural Arts. Mark Petersen won numerous awards from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, has served as their President and was honored by that council as National Communicator of the Year.

Mark knew many of our mentees by name and he genuinely cared for each of them. Not only did he care about our mentees, he cared for the staff and mentors that worked with him as well.

Click here to watch Mark’s Speech on “Why Mentors?”.

Past President and CEO (2007 – 2017)

Mark L. Petersen

Mark L. Petersen served as the President and CEO of Mentors International for a decade before his untimely passing from cancer. Prior to working at Mentors International, Mark worked for 27 years in higher education administration at Weber State University and Dixie State University.

He served as the executive director of public relations and marketing for 17 years at Dixie State College and was then appointed by the president to open the new Eccles Fine Arts Center at the university as Executive Director of Cultural Arts. Mark Petersen won numerous awards from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, has served as their President and was honored by that council as National Communicator of the Year.

Mark knew many of our mentees by name and he genuinely cared for each of them. Not only did he care about our mentees, he cared for the staff and mentors that worked with him as well.

Watch Mark’s Speech on “Why Mentors?”.

Past President and CEO (2002 – 2007)

G. Richard Oscarson

Richard Oscarson served as the President of Mentors International. He also served extensively as a volunteer in church and community organizations including the United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Judevine Center for Autistic Children.

In addition, he was the Honorary Consul for the Swedish Consulate in St. Louis, Missouri. His church service included Missionary, Bishop, Mission President (Sweden), Stake President, and he served as the Patriarch and Sealer in the St. Louis Temple. He retired from Mentors International to serve at the St. Louis Temple President.

Pictured (L-R) is Mentors International’s President, Richard Oscarson, Muhammad Yunus, and our Program Directors Robert Hokanson and Jacob Allen at the Microcredit Summit in New York City in November 2002. Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the pioneering concepts of microcredit and microfinance.

Past President and CEO (2002 – 2007)

G. Richard Oscarson

Richard Oscarson served as the President of Mentors International. He also served extensively as a volunteer in church and community organizations including the United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Judevine Center for Autistic Children.

In addition, he was the Honorary Consul for the Swedish Consulate in St. Louis, Missouri. His church service included Missionary, Bishop, Mission President (Sweden), Stake President, and he served as the Patriarch and Sealer in the St. Louis Temple. He retired from Mentors International to serve at the St. Louis Temple President.

Pictured (L-R) is Mentors International’s President, Richard Oscarson, Muhammad Yunus, and our Program Directors Robert Hokanson and Jacob Allen at the Microcredit Summit in New York City in November 2002. Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the pioneering concepts of microcredit and microfinance.

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