Articles by Maria Saporta


Column: Friendship Force launches 40th anniversary campaign

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 23, 2017

Atlanta-based Friendship Force International is celebrating its 40th anniversary by launching a $1 million fundraising campaign.

Friendship Force is a pioneer in promoting global understanding through the citizen homestay experience. Its 40th anniversary campaign will seek to develop new initiatives to involve more people to travel with a purpose to create a more peaceful world.


Historic transformation underway at Atlanta History Center 

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 23, 2017

History is being remade at the Atlanta History Center.

The Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama painting and the locomotive Texas now are anchored in the new Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker building — still under construction — on the Atlanta History Center’s Buckhead campus.

The move caps the extraordinary five-year tenure Sheffield Hale has held as president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center.

Delta soaring to record heights – a decade after emerging from bankruptcy

NEW YORK – The annual meeting of Delta Air Lines Friday morning became a high-flying affair as CEO Ed Bastian declared two all-time records.

The company’s market cap is approaching $40 billion, and Bastian said: “Last night, we closed at an all-time high.”

And then on Friday, Delta was expecting its busiest day ever.

“We will be flying 651,000 passengers,” Bastian said in a brief interview after the annual meeting. “It’s the highest in our history.”


Column: Two nonprofits win awards from Community Foundation

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 16, 2017

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has named Literacy Action and Trees Atlanta as the recipients of its 33rd annual “Managing for Excellence” awards.

The recognition is one of the most sought-after awards among Atlanta’s nonprofit organizations. The Community Foundation rewards nonprofits that are exceptionally well-run with outstanding management and governance practices combined with innovative thinking.

Mayor Kasim Reed: $1 billion mixed use development around Philips Arena planned by Richard Ressler, brother of Hawks owner Tony Ressler

The Los Angeles-based CIM Group will develop at $1 billion mixed-use project around a renovated Philips Arena, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an exclusive interview Friday.

One of the key principals of the CIM Group is Richard Ressler, the brother of Tony Ressler, the majority owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Reed confirmed the “transformative project” during an interview after the quarterly meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, held at the Ponce City Market offices of Cox Enterprises on Friday morning. It also was Tony Ressler’s first ACP meeting.

Settlement reached to close Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter – ending more than a decade of discord

After nearly a decade of legal battles between various parties, a settlement has been reached that will lead to the closing of the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter, according to several sources close to the transaction.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall apparently signed a consent decree on Wednesday, but different parties did not want to discuss the settlement on the record until they had seen the signed agreement


Rotary convention boosts city’s global health image

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 16, 2017

Atlanta’s role as a leading hub for global health held center-stage during the 2017 Rotary International convention – an event where nearly 36,000 Rotarians, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous other partners committed another $1.2 billion towards the efforts of eradicating polio over the next three years.

Atlanta was the perfect venue for that announcement. It was here where Rotary first launched its foundation 100 years ago – a centennial celebrated at the culmination of the convention with birthday parties on June 14.

United Way’s Milton Little to take a three-month sabbatical

Following the cue of several of his colleagues, Milton Little, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Atlanta, will be taking a three-month sabbatical starting June 21.

Little said he will use the time to do some traveling, perhaps overseas; help his 18-year-old son prepare to enter his freshman year at Howard University; and spend “a lot of time reflecting and planning for the United Way of the next 10 years.”

Tom Teepen (1935 to 2017) – a man ahead of his time

Friends, colleagues and family gathered at the Mason Art Gallery Sunday afternoon to remember one of Atlanta’s unapologetic liberals – Tom Teepen.

Teepen, editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News, became an Atlantan when he joined the Atlanta Constitution’s editorial page in 1982, soon becoming its editor. He later served as a syndicated political columnist for Cox Enterprises until he retired in 2002.

Morehouse moving forward despite loss of interim president – Bill Taggart


Stunned by the sudden loss of interim President Bill Taggart, leaders of Morehouse College pledged to do everything they can to keep the institution strong.

A service for Taggart, who died suddenly on June 7 of an apparent brain aneurism, was held on Friday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel on the Morehouse campus.

“Things happen for a reason,” said Willie Woods, who was elected chairman of the Morehouse Board of Trustee at the same tumultuous time Taggart was named interim president. “The sad part is that we are going to miss Bill’s leadership.”

A magnificent Magnolia replaces Piedmont Park’s beloved tree

By Maria Saporta The Piedmont Park Conservancy, through the generosity of the Vasser Woolley Foundation, has replaced the park’s popular “Climbing Magnolia” tree. The original Magnolia tree was one of most popular attractions in Piedmont Park – a perfect size with outstretched limbs that embraced children, and even adults, inviting them to climb. It also […]

GE’s Russell Stokes promoted; will stay in Atlanta

General Electric Co. has named Russell Stokes, its highest-ranking executive in Georgia, as the new CEO of GE Power, the company’s New York-based unit responsible for power generation and water technologies. But Stokes — who will lead the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2018 — will continue to be based in Atlanta.

Stokes, currently president and CEO of GE Energy Connections, will take over GE Power on July 3.


Column: Wilton Looney gives Children’s Healthcare $1 million for pediatrics center

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 9, 2017

Retired Genuine Parts Co. executive and philanthropist Wilton Looney has given $1 million to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in honor of his late wife Martha Looney. “Fortunately we talked about it just before she died [in October 2016], and she agreed,” Looney said in a telephone interview June 6. “It’s just something we wanted to do.”

Bill Taggart’s service to be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Morehouse’ MLK chapel

Memorial services for William “Bill” Taggart, an Atlanta business and civic leader who died suddenly on June 7, will be held on Friday, June 16 at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College at 830 Westview Drive S.W.

Since April, Taggart was serving as the interim president of Morehouse College. He also held several important roles in the community, such as chairman of the Atlanta Business League and on the board of the Westside Future Fund.


Atlanta companies double down on clean energy following Trump announcement

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 9, 2017

Atlanta-based corporate giants and major companies with an Atlanta presence stopped short of joining the chorus of criticism Democrats and environmentalists heaped on President Donald Trump’s decision June 1 to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

But The Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., The Home Depot Inc., and others firmly renewed their commitments to pursuing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, goals set forth by the 2015 Paris accord.

Coca-Cola’s James Quincey to Rotary: Never accept the way things are

In his first public appearance since becoming CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., James Quincey reaffirmed the company’s commitment to Atlanta, water conservation, women empowerment and community well-being at the 2017 Rotary International convention.

“We take great satisfaction that Atlanta is also a special place for Rotary, and that you’ve chosen to celebrate your Foundation’s Centennial here,” Quincey told the more than 23,000 people assembled in Hall B of the Georgia World Congress Center.

Rotary International shines spotlight on ‘modern slavery’ – seeking to curb the problem

Rotary International raised the spotlight on human trafficking Monday at its 108th convention underway in Atlanta.

After a morning devoted to the initiative to eradicate polio, the nearly 37,000 Rotarians attending the conference from all over the world listened to ways it can help fight modern day slavery.
“Atlanta Georgia is one of the hot beds for sex trafficking in the entire country,” said actor Ashton Kutcher, who has become an active voice to protect women and children from becoming modern day slaves. Kutcher said one can actually “buy somebody” – a fact he said is hard to believe.

Rotary International, Bill Gates and other global partners pledge another $1.2 billion to efforts to end polio

“End Polio Now” was the rallying cry at the !08th convention of Rotary International – bringing nearly 37,500 Rotarians to Atlanta from Sunday through Wednesday.

Led by Rotary International and Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the global health partners meeting in Atlanta reaffirmed their commitment to ending the disease by pledging an additional $1.2 billion to the cause.

Rotary announced alone pledge to raise $50 million a year for three years. And Bill Gates announced he would match that contribution two-to-one – meaning that partnership would provide another $450 million to fight the last vestiges of the debilitating disease.


Column: Nearly 40,000 Rotarians from around world coming to Atlanta

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 2, 2017

Don’t be surprised if from June 5 to June 14, Atlanta looks more international than usual.

Rotary International will be holding its 108th annual convention in Atlanta — commemorating the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Rotary Foundation — which happened at the Rotary convention held in Atlanta in 1917. That’s when Arch Klumph proposed creating an endowment with a purpose of “doing good in the world.” The foundation began with a war chest of $26.50, but today it has assets of more than $1 billion, and that’s after it has invested more than $3 billion in philanthropic causes in virtually every corner of the world.