Column: Berry College gets $10 million challenge gift

By Maria Saporta
Friday, February 24, 2012

Rome-based Berry College has received an anonymous $10 million challenge gift to help provide at least 80 new full-time scholarships for students who combine their studies with work on campus.

The expanded Gate of Opportunity Scholarship program will enhance Berry’s tradition of providing support for students who work their way through college to combine their academic studies with real-life experiences. The scholarships will allow those students to graduate debt-free.

“It’s a wonderful moment for us,” said Steve Briggs, president of Berry College. “We know there are students who could benefit from a Berry College education but can’t afford it.”

Currently, Berry has 28 Gate scholars, and the goal is to have as many as 120 by the end of the decade. Berry, which has a total of 2,000 students, is seeking $12.5 million in matching gifts so it can endow those scholarships in perpetuity.

In addition to going to school, Gate scholars have to work 20 hours a week each semester and work full-time during the summer. “We are looking for students who are willing and able to move into positions of responsibility,” Briggs said.

New CEO at A.G. Rhodes

A 107-year-old Atlanta institution — A.G. Rhodes Health and Rehab — is welcoming a new leader while saying goodbye to Harve Bauguess, 65, who has been with the skilled nursing home for 37 years.

Albert Blackwelder, who has been a long-time executive at Emory Healthcare, has been named the new CEO of A.G. Rhodes, which now has more than 600 employees and 600 volunteers working at three facilities in the metro area, serving a total of 418 older adults.
Bauguess will be honored for his four decades of service at an afternoon reception on Feb. 29 at A.G. Rhodes’ historic home on Boulevard Avenue near Grant Park.

Bauguess said A.G. Rhodes, which is a nonprofit organization, has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the nation. Of the 350 nursing homes in Georgia it is one of only 20 nonprofit institutions.

“We provide a higher level of care than the average nursing home,” Bauguess said. “We are more efficient, and we can do it better and cheaper.”

The A.G. Rhodes’ homes have had a member of the Rhodes family on the board of trustees for about 100 years. It started out as the Hospital of the Incurables, and businessman A.G. Rhodes, a furniture salesman, stepped in early on to help stabilize the institution.

In addition to the Atlanta institution, A.G. Rhodes also has facilities in Cobb County and at the Wesley Woods campus near Emory University.

When Bauguess decided to retire, A.G. Rhodes conducted a nationwide search for his replacement, but its top choice ended up being Blackwelder, who had worked at Emory Healthcare for more than 30 years, most recently as chief operating officer for Emory’s Wesley Woods Center, one of the largest and most complex centers for geriatric care, assisted living and research in Georgia.

Blackwelder and Bauguess said geriatric care will become even more challenging as baby boomers age and as Medicare and Medicaid face growing financial issues.

Heroes, Saints & Legends

Speaking of elderly care, on May 10, the Wesley Woods Foundation will hold its annual Heroes, Saints & Legends awards at the St. Regis Hotel.

And this year, thanks to the involvement of The Coca-Cola Co.’s Ingrid Saunders Jones, the event is expected to have “more prominence and raise more money,” according to Mike Watson, president and CEO of the Wesley Woods Foundation.

“This year’s event will be the grandest of all of the ones we’ve ever had,” Watson said.
The honorees will be Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy; Ann Cramer, director of IBM Corporate Citizenship; and Carl Ware, former executive vice president of Coca-Cola who also was Jones’ mentor.

The “Key to a Cure Award” will go to Bill Wilkins, co-founder of the Wilkins Parkinson’s Foundation and owner of Wilkins Media Co. Wilkins, who has Parkinson’s, has worked closely with actor Michael J. Fox to help increase awareness and treatment of the disease.

Watson said they would love to be able to raise $500,000 at the dinner, which will support ways to treat, cure or prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

The Wesley Woods Foundation also is in the silent phase of a $9 million campaign to improve its six properties that are supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Chase investing in community

Chase is investing $1.25 million in Enterprise Community Partners to provide affordable housing options for Atlanta families. The program is part of a $5 million national investment that is being made in Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle, in addition to Atlanta.

The funds, which will be administered through the Enterprise Community Loan Fund, will provide flexible loans to groups focused on preserving affordable, multifamily housing in Atlanta.

“In Enterprise, we have a partner who will have a tremendous impact on our city,” said David Balos, president of Chase in Atlanta, in a statement. “This grant complements the work Chase has been doing for many years to support affordable housing across the nation.”

Over the past three years, Chase has provided more than $1 billion to community institutions.

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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