Founders, Past Presidents, and Former Leaders of Mentors International and Lifting Generations

We would like to express our profound gratitude to these amazing individuals who had the vision to change the world. The education, experience and tenacity of these men has influenced millions of people to become more self-reliant. They knew that by providing a hand up, instead of a handout was the way to truly empower the poor. Each one laid a strong foundation that has enabled Mentors International and Lifting Generations to stay true to our missions for three decades. We continue that legacy with more capacity and effectiveness today because of their efforts.

The past presidents and leaders of Mentors International and Lifting Generations have all played key roles in helping us reach the level of service we have been able to provide throughout the world today. Since our beginnings in 1990, we have impacted over 4.5 MILLION individuals todate.  

In 2019, Mentors International and Lifting Generations merged operations to create one of the largest mentoring organizations dedicated to helping the poor create sustainable self-reliance. Lifting Generations was built upon the framework of two separate organizations that merged together in 2016. 

Menlo F. Smith

Menlo F. Smith

Founder

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 his story

Mark L. Petersen

Mark L. Petersen

Past President and CEO 2007 - 2017

Mark L. Petersen served as the President and CEO of Mentors International for a decade before he passed away 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 clients by name and he genuinely cared for each of them. Not only did he care about our clients, he cared for the staff and mentors that worked with him.

Learn more about his legacy of service.

Steven H. Mann

Steven H. Mann

Founder

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.

Warner P. Woodworth

Warner P. Woodworth

Founder

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 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.

Dan Gifford

Dan Gifford

Founder

Daniel G. Gifford founded Cause for Hope, a self-reliance accelerator, with operations in 5 Latin countries, 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. 

Ross Farnsworth Jr.

Ross Farnsworth Jr.

Founder

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 the lives of the people. He founded “One Life at a Time” as a means to educate the less fortunate and help them break the poverty cycle.

Ross married Lori Ann Barnes and together they have 6 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.

G. Richard Oscarson

G. Richard Oscarson

Past President and CEO

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.