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Column: Gov. Nathan Deal to receive 2017 Four Pillar award

Gov. Nathan and Sandra Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal outside of NRG Stadium before the 2017 Super Bowl (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 19, 2017

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will be honored by the Council for Quality Growth with its 28th annual Four Pillar Award on Oct. 5 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

It is the first time the Council has presented the Four Pillar Award to a sitting governor.

Gov. Nathan and Sandra Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal outside of NRG Stadium before the 2017 Super Bowl (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Council said Deal was being honored for his contributions to economic prosperity, education and transportation in Georgia. The Council’s Four Pillars of leadership – quality, responsibility, vision and integrity – exemplify the organization’s mission of promoting balanced and responsible growth.

“Governor Deal’s leadership and vision has propelled Georgia’s economy, paving the path for not only growth, but smart growth,” said Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth. “Deal’s focus on investments in education, criminal justice, and transportation – among others–are essential to sustainable growth.”

Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Deal has led Georgia to become the number one state in the nation for business for four years in a row–a first in Georgia history–and helped create more than 575,000 private sector jobs, the Council stated.

Through tax reform, workforce development initiatives and investment in education and infrastructure, the state continues to grow local small businesses and attract top companies from around the world.

Under Deal’s leadership, Georgia has produced seven balanced budgets, saved millions of taxpayer dollars by maintaining Georgia’s AAA bond rating, and has grown the Rainy Day Reserve Fund to more than $2 billion.

In order to keep up with a growing infrastructure demand, for example, Deal implemented a number of investments in Georgia’s transportation system, including Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which will generate over $10 billion in new transportation funding over 10 years. Transportation projects under Deal have already alleviated traffic and improved safety across the entire state.

Andy Macke, the Council’s 2017 chairman who is Comcast’s vice president of government and community affairs, said Deal’s contributions have benefited the entire state.

The theme of the 2017 tribute is: “Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.”

By the way, late Gov. George Busbee received the Four Pillar Award in 2002 – 19 years after he had left the governor’s office and two years before he passed away.

Other recipients have included former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, architect and developer John Portman and Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A.

MSM’s Billye Suber Aaron Pavllion

A visibly moved Billye Aaron watched as the Morehouse School of Medicine unveiled its newest building – the Billye Suber Aaron Pavilion – on May 16.

Billye Aaron Hank Aaron Valerie Montgomery Rice

MSM President Valerie Montgomery Rice with Henry “Hank” Aaron, and his wife, Billye Suber Aaron (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Atlanta’s “Hammerin Hank” Aaron donated $3 million to the Morehouse School of Medicine in honor of his wife, who has been a close friend of both the Medical School and Morehouse College.

“Thanks be to God,” Billye Aaron said at the ceremony. “We are indebted to women first for life itself, and then for making it worth living.”

She recounted her life’s journey, her first marriage to a Morehouse professor and pastor at Friendship Baptist Church, becoming a widow, and her first meeting with Hank Aaron, who she was interviewing for her television show – Today in Georgia.

“It was a sad, sad interview because I didn’t know a thing about baseball,” she said. “But it turned out well.”

And then turning to her husband, she said: “You have been my rock. You have supported me.”

Aaron then recognized members of her expansive family, including her sister, her daughter and her grandchildren.

“This is just marvelous,” she said. “I can’t envision passing down the street and seeing my name in lights. How did this happen?”

Billye Aaron Valerie Montgomery Rice

Billye Suber Aaron with MSM President Valerie Montgomery Rice at the unveiling of the new Billye Suber Aaron Pavilion on the campus of the Morehouse School of Medicine (Photo by Maria Saporta)

In addition to her husband’s gift, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation gave a $3 million grant for the building.

It is part of an ambitious $68 million campaign in four phases that the Morehouse School of Medicine is launching to expand the school’s offerings. The campaign includes the renovation of the Hugh M. Gloster Building, the addition to the Medical Education building as well as the renovation of part of that building.

MSM President Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, who is also the school’s dean, said the school continues to be focused in recruiting students who will excel in primary care and work in underserved communities.

“We will enroll 100 medical students in July of this year,” Dr. Rice said. “We understand it takes a team to eliminate health disparities.”

She also thanked Billye Aaron for deciding “to adopt me when I came to Atlanta,” and to Hank Aaron who when presented with the idea of making a gift to the school immediately said: “Okay.”

Atlanta Business League CEO Luncheon

Outside of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy’s favorite restaurant in Atlanta is the Varsity.

That was one gem that Chick-fil-A’s chairman and CEO shared upon receiving the Atlanta Business League’s 2017 CEO of the Year Award at the Hyatt Regency on May 16.

Bill Taggart, Dan Cathy and Leona Barr Davenport

ABL Chairman Bill Taggart at the awarding of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy as ABL’s CEO of the Year as Leona Barr Davenport, ABL’s CEO, looks on (Photo by Maria Saporta)

He talked about recently bringing his wife to a concert at the Atlanta Symphony, when they stopped for dinner at the Varsity. Cathy said he was so boastful about all the great developments in Atlanta that his wife finally had to ask him to talk about something else.

Then Cathy turned serious talking about the issues on the westside of Atlanta – where he said help is on the way.

“This is a moral crisis for Atlanta. It’s a public relations crisis for Atlanta. It’s literally a life and death situation,” Cathy said, adding that the Westside needs support from both the public and private sectors.

“I want to ask you as business people, let’s come together and set aside our vices, our perspectives, our egos, our logos to rebuild the Westside of Atlanta,” Cathy added. “To God be the glory.”

The Atlanta Business League, which is focused on the development of minority businesses in metro Atlanta, also recognized other honorees at the luncheon.

  • Gregory B. Levett Sr., founder and CEO of the Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home, was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year;
  • Joyce J. Dorsey, president and CEO of the Fulton/Atlanta Community Action Authority, received the Visions of Excellence Award;
  • Grace Fricks, president and CEO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, received the Visions of Excellence Award;
  • Dana L. Lemon, a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation, received the Catalyst Award; and
  • Thomas W. Dortch Jr., president of TWD Inc., received the League Leadership Award.


Maria Saporta

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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