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Column: Atlanta nonprofit group Literacy Action begins a new chapter

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 5, 2017

A change of leadership is underway at Literacy Action, a 50-year old Atlanta nonprofit that focuses on the issues related to adult literacy.

Austin Dickson, executive director of Literacy Action since October, 2012, is resigning effective May 12 to move back to Texas so he can be closer to his family.

Literacy Action

Literacy Action’s Austin Dickson and Kate Boyer (Special: Literacy Action)

Dickson, a Texas native, is moving to the San Antonio area where he will serve as the executive director of the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, the principal grant-maker in four Central Texas counties.

During his five-year tenure, Literacy Action has expanded its programmatic offerings, extended its geographic reach, shored up its finances, and grown the staff from nine to 30 employees.

In 2014, Dickson oversaw Literacy Action’s acquisition of Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta, a 28-year-old nonprofit that added hundreds of volunteers and over 350 students to Literacy Action’s efforts.

“We’ve seen incredible growth and development under Austin’s leadership; we are grateful for all of his contributions and wish him well for the next chapter in his life and career,” said Althea Broughton, chair of Literacy Action’s board and a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory. “The board is committed to a smooth transition, and we believe that Literacy Action has a bright future.”

Literacy Action’s deputy director, Kate Boyer, has been named interim director, succeeding Dickson beginning May 12. Boyer has worked for Literacy Action since 2015, and she previously served as a program director and executive director at other local nonprofits.

The organization’s board has formed a Transition Committee, chaired by Melanee Haywood of Delta Air Lines, to lead a search to fill the permanent executive director role.

“Over the last two years, Austin and Kate have worked closely on the strategic direction of Literacy Action,” Haywood said. “While we will miss Austin, we believe that Kate’s experience with the staff, volunteers, partners, and the broader community will confidently lead us forward.”

Literacy Action is the oldest and largest adult literacy organization in the Southeast, and it was recognized as a “Best Nonprofit to Work For” by Work for Good in 2013. In 2016, it was recognized as one of the 100 largest Atlanta-area nonprofits by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. It will open a new headquarters, a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art learning facility in the Mezzanine at Peachtree Center and begin celebrating 50 years of Literacy Action’s impact in Atlanta.

“Atlanta is grateful for Austin’s leadership,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, where Austin previously worked. “During his tenure here at the Community Foundation, we witnessed his vision and commitment to community first-hand. Texas will certainly benefit from his impact, and the Atlanta region will miss him dearly.”

Andrew Young’s 85th birthday celebration

As a way to mark his 85th year, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is throwing a big gala – at Philips Arena.

The Andrew J. Young Foundation will present the second biennial Young International Leadership Awards to a host of friends and celebrities.

Andy Young

ABC’s “Black-ish” star, Anthony Anderson, will emcee the ceremony that will pay tribute to Ambassador Young for his civic service and contributions to global communities.

It also will honor the next generation of leaders from around the world who, in the tradition of Young, are committed to civil and human rights for all.

“We are thrilled to host the awards program and convene some of today’s most inspiring leaders whose work is having a positive impact on people and communities worldwide,” said Carolyn McClain Young, wife of Ambassador Young and vice chair of the Foundation. “My husband’s life shows us how much of a difference a committed individual can make and reminds us we can accomplish great things when we strive together in a noble cause.”

Honorees for the 2017 Andrew J. Young International Leadership Awards will be announced closer to the event, but recipients of the inaugural Leadership Awards in 2015 included:  Ava DuVernay, Strive Masiyiwa, Alana Shepherd, Lucien Ebata and Warner Williams.

Among the artists and dignitaries who will perform at the celebratory gathering include: singer, songwriter and actor, Usher; singer, songwriter, poet and actress, Jill Scott; rapper, musician and actor Wyclef Jean; singer, songwriter Estelle, renowned gospel singer and musician, Anthony Brown and many more world-class artists.

The theme for this year’s event is “Lead Young.”  It bridges Young’s leadership path beginning at an early age to his commitment to inspire and develop the next generation of young leaders.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Foundation’s current programs to preserve civil and human rights and help support and sustain future initiatives.

Tom Cousins and East Lake

The East Lake Foundation hosted the inaugural “Party on the Green” on April 29 at East Lake Golf Club. The Foundation honored its founders, Tom and Ann Cousins, with a tribute presented by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The event netted $400,000.

Dan Cathy Tom Cousins Ann Cousins

Dan Cathy gets ready to play his trumpet as a way to honor Ann and Tom Cousins at East Lake event (Photo by Maria Saporta)

But it was Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy who stole the show when he played his trumpet for the Cousins.

Businessman and civic leader Doug Hertz spoke of what the Cousins have meant to the city, the state and the country with the reinvigoration of the East Lake community.

“It’s the best example of social entrepreneurship that’s perhaps ever occurred,” Hertz said. “It’s being used as a model around the country.”

Proceeds from “Party on the Green” benefited the East Lake Foundation’s Early Childhood Education Initiative, including the East Lake Early Learning Academy, Sheltering Arms East Lake, and the Cox Pre-K Program at Charles R. Drew Charter School – all partners in East Lake’s cradle-to-college education pipeline.

“Exceptional cannot begin to describe the dedication that Tom, Ann, the entire Cousins family and the East Lake Foundation have given to community revitalization over the past 20 years,” said Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. “We are so fortunate to learn from the model they have established as we collectively work to make Atlanta better every day.”

Center for Civil and Human Rights awards

The third annual Power to Inspire Tribute dinner will honor the Anti-Defamation League; architect Phil Freelon; Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., an award-winning filmmaker; the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Ted Turner and the Turner Foundation.

Center for Civil and Human rights by Lisa Bongiorno

Center for Civil and Human rights by Lisa Bongiorno

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights will host the event on May 18, awarding individuals and organizations that “represent the conscience of our democracy by working vigilantly to insure full access and participation of all persons regardless of race, faith, ethnicity and identity,” the announcement said.

The awardees showcase society’s change agents– literally and emblematically—shifting how we view and respond to equality and justice in our city, nation and the world.

  • For over 100 years, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been unwavering in exposing and stopping the defamation of the Jewish people while securing justice and fair treatment for all people.  ADL fights threats to our very democracy, including cyber hate, bullying, terrorism, hate crimes, coercion of religious minorities, bias in schools and in the criminal justice system and acts of contempt for anyone who is different.
  • Phil Freelon is an award winning architect whose work is embedded in some of our country’s most iconic cultural centers and museums.  He designed The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and led the architectural team of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an academician, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder.  Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-one books and created seventeen documentary films.  He has dedicated his career to uplifting and advancing understanding of contributions by Africans and African Americans throughout the diaspora in an unparalleled body of work in literary, film, and electronic media.
  • Founded by Thurgood Marshall in 1940, the NAACP Legal and Defense and Education Fund is the nation’s foremost civil and human rights legal team. It uses the scope and authority of our judicial system to eradicate the nation’s most egregious laws and practices of racial discrimination.
  • Ted Turner exemplifies entrepreneurial acumen, exceptional business skills, visionary leadership, and unprecedented philanthropy.  He changed the face of television broadcasting launching TBS Super Station and global news coverage through Cable News Network’s 24-hour news format.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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