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Column: Agnes Scott raises $115 million in largest capital campaign ever

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 21, 2017

Agnes Scott College is on a roll. The all-women liberal arts college recently completed its “The Greatness Before Us” campaign that had a goal of $100 million.

Agnes Scott was able to exceed its goal by raising a total of $115.9 million, the largest capital campaign in Agnes Scott’s history.

Elizabeth Kiss

Agnes Scott President Elizabeth Kiss with ACE President Molly Corbett Broad (Special from ACE)

But that’s not all. Last summer, Agnes Scott was the location for the filming of the HBO movie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Although Oprah Winfrey’s presence on campus was top secret during the filming, President Elizabeth Kiss was able to visit the media magnate and give her a personal invitation to be the commencement speaker. “We told her about what Agnes Scott represents — our diversity and our commitment to women,” Kiss said. “We were just really fortunate.”

So on May 13, Winfrey will accept an honorary degree from Agnes Scott and be the commencement speaker on the beautiful historic campus in downtown Decatur. The second commencement speaker will be Deborah Bial, founder and president of the Posse Foundation, who also will receive an honorary degree.

“The stars were just aligned,” said Kiss, who said Winfrey had been invited several times in the past. “It was a combination of annoying persistence and dumb luck.”

It didn’t hurt that one of the graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy is a graduating senior at Agnes Scott.

The combination of the successful capital campaign with a star-studded commencement program has Kiss bubbling with excitement.

“We are just really fortunate,” said Kiss, who also accepted the American Council on Education 2017 Award for Institutional Transformation on behalf of Agnes Scott in March.

The campaign focused on four areas:

  • Campus Vision – Capital improvements to campus facilities that will preserve and protect the iconic buildings while also demonstrating a forward-thinking commitment to sustainability.
  • Faculty Excellence – To ensure the continued excellence of the faculty, fund programs that offer professional development opportunities and resources to help professors reach their full potential as educators.
  • Student Excellence – Securing support for students to help attract and retain the best and brightest students.
  • Innovative Programming – Programs that will nurture strong women with the knowledge, skills and experiences to engage a wider world.

The campaign co-chairs were Elizabeth Daniel Holder, ’82; Elizabeth Rhett Jones, ’73; and Clyde Tuggle, senior vice president and chief public affairs officer of The Coca-Cola Co.

The campaign included more than 10,000 donors of which 1,324 were students. Gifts and pledges came from 49 states, the District of Columbia and 51 countries. More than 20 gifts were for $1 million or more.

“The financial commitment of our alumnae, friends, trustees and donors in support of the campaign’s goals means that our students will have opportunities they have never had before,” Holder said. “It means our faculty will be supported as they deserve to be supported. And it means that this beautiful campus will be protected for decades to come.”

Sheltering Arms has new chair

Jeff Kammerer, a partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers, is now the new board chair for Sheltering Arms, a nonprofit that has provided high-quality early education, child care and comprehensive family support services since 1888 – serving 3,600 children annually.

Kammerer succeeds Michael Smith, of the Smith Group, who will continue to serve on the board, which also welcomed five new board members.

“We are very happy to welcome these highly accomplished leaders to our board,” said Blythe Keeler Robinson, president and CEO of Sheltering Arms. “Their diverse backgrounds and expertise will play a tremendous role in helping Sheltering Arms move forward with our mission to transform the lives of the children we serve and their families through high-quality early education and support services.”

The new board members are:

  • Leah Austin, vice president of programs at Southern Education Foundation;
  • Kevin Hamada, director of business intelligence systems at UPS;
  • Lori Kaczynski, vice president of internal audit and chief audit executive at Graphic Packaging International;
  • John Pelick, assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and
  • Yasmin Tyler-Hill, lead clinician and chair for the Department of Pediatrics at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

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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