Retired BellSouth executive Frank Skinner honored at Turknett Leadership Awards luncheon

By Maria Saporta

At its 9th annual luncheon, for the first time ever, the Turknett Leadership Character Awards gave a “Lifetime Achievement Award” — an honor awarded to the deserving Frank Skinner, a long-time leader and a retired CEO of BellSouth Telecommunications.

The awards were held today at the Georgia Aquarium at an event put on by the Turknett Leadership Group, a talent management firm based in Atlanta. The company has been presenting leadership awards since 2003.

The awards recognize individuals who demonstrate integrity; related to customers, suppliers, co-workers and others with respect; and maintain a culture in which everyone takes responsibility for achieving results while upholding the organization’s core values.

Skinner was honored for demonstrating the “highest standards of character and integrity over a lifetime of service to a firm and to the larger community,” according to Turknett Leadership Group.

Phil Jacobs, former president of BellSouth Georgia, introduced Skinner at the lunch by telling a story of his father describing Skinner as “one of the finest men I’ve ever known.” Skinner used to work for Jacobs’ father at the telephone company in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area.

“Frank was and still remains one of the most respected leaders (in Atlanta) by far,” Jacobs said. “If you had a civic cause, you wanted Frank Skinner to be the energy behind that cause.”

Upon accepting the award, Skinner told Jacobs that he “wondered who in the world are you talking about. You’ve been flying me higher than I can roost.”

He also questioned why someone who had retired 20 years ago was being honored. “I don’t exactly fit the profile of the energetic award winner,” he said. “I feel a bit guilty receiving an award for things I really enjoyed doing.”

Skinner then said he felt a debt of gratitude for the award that he could never repay to those who gave it to him. But he could try to repay in-kind somewhere else, adding: “I will do everything I can to repay in kind and repay in full.”

The other award recipients at the 2012 event included:

Larry Gellerstedt III, president and CEO of Cousins Properties Inc., in the “Large Company” category;

Stuart Johnson, managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, in the “Small Company” category;

Tracy Garner, vice president of core installation and maintenance for AT&T’s East Region, in the “Executive Management” category;

Dr. James Wagner, president of Emory University, in the “Education” category;

Steven Gottlieb, executive director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, in the “Non-Profit” category; and

Karen Robinson Cope, senior vice president of sales and marketing for NanoLumens Inc., in the “Inspiritor” category.

Also, Milton Little, president of the United Way of Greater Atlanta, received the “Connecting the Community” award.

“The opportunity to recognize leaders of character is the highlight of the year for us,” said Lyn Turknett, co-founder of the awards along with her husband and partner — Dr. Robert Turknett. “We believe that by celebrating role models of leadership character, we inspire character in others.”

The nominees were judged by a four-person advisory group, which consists of Kent C. “Oz” Nelson, retired chairman and CEO of UPS; Conchita Robinson, president and CEO of C Robinson Associates Inc.; Dr. Betty Siegel, president emeritus of Kennesaw State University; and Tom Crawford, former chairman and CEO of Crawford & Co.

The awards luncheon was sponsored by GV Financial (silver sponsor), Kroger and Morris, Manning and Martin (bronze sponsors).

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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