Column: Sam Nunn wins Georgia Tech’s inaugural Ivan Allen Jr. Prize

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 10, 2010

Destined to become one of Georgia’s most prestigious awards, Georgia Tech’s inaugural Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage will be given to former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.

The prize, accompanied by a $100,000 award, will be awarded at the Ivan Allen College’s Founder’s Day luncheon on March 15. The annual prize is being made possible through an endowed $2 million gift made in 2008 by the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation.

“While some individuals talk about achieving world peace, Sam Nunn has actively pursued this vision and created a legacy that continues to reap results long after his exit from public office,” said Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson in a statement. “The Ivan Allen Prize for Social Courage stands as the pre-eminent award offered by Georgia Tech and underscores the mission we have in Georgia, the nation and the world.”

Nunn represented Georgia in the Senate for 24 years, serving as chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. He became a leading proponent to limit nuclear weapons through the Nunn-Lugar bill.

After leaving the Senate, Nunn co-founded and serves as co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative along with Ted Turner, media entrepreneur who founded CNN and who has become a leading environmentalist and philanthropist.

Nunn also serves as chairman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and is co-chair of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, an international commission sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Nunn also has ties to Georgia Tech, serving as a distinguished professor in Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.

The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage is being established to recognize people who have stood up for “clear moral principles in the social arena, have positively affected public discourse at the risk of their own careers, livelihoods and even their lives.”

Those traits were exemplified by former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., who was a progressive voice in the South in the era of desegregation and Civil Rights. Jacqueline Jones Royster, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, said that Nunn embodies the former Atlanta mayor’s principles and that he is a fitting recipient of the inaugural prize.

Tackling city pensions

The city of Atlanta is getting prepared to tackle its unfunded pension liability head on in the new year, according to Mayor Kasim Reed.

In an interview following the quarterly meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, Reed said the city has assembled a team of outside advisers to provide a meaningful review of the city’s pension situation.

Accounting firm Deloitte, law firm Troutman Sanders LLP and the Segal Group actuarial firm are conducting the in-depth analysis.

“They are going to present several paths, and they are going to leave it to the elected officials — myself and the City Council — to pick a path,” Reed said. “It is going to consume a good amount of my time in the new year. It’s going to be very, very tough.”

But if it doesn’t address its pension liability, the mayor is concerned that the city could be near bankruptcy by 2016 or 2017.

“We are going to bring together all the stakeholders and have a conversation about what we want Atlanta to be,” Reed said.

The Atlanta business and civic community is funding the $1.6 million review. So far, $1.585 million has been raised.

Greiner pastures for United Way

Metro Atlanta’s United Way has selected Kevin Greiner, CEO of Gas South, to serve as its overall campaign chair in 2012. Greiner currently is chairing Cobb County’s United Way campaign, which has a goal of $7.8 million out of the overall metro goal of $80.2 million.

“The United Way campaigns of the last few years have done remarkably well given the extent of the economic downturn,” Greiner said. “While United Way is not immune from the recession, companies that have participated understand that now is not the time to retrench and roll back their efforts. They realize that the need for support in the community has never been greater.”

Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way, said he has been impressed with Greiner’s enthusiasm and leadership abilities.

“Kevin is an exciting young CEO of a company that is rapidly establishing a statewide presence,” Little said. “He brings an understanding of leadership and civic responsibility as a corporate CEO. He also understands the specific challenges that are facing small and medium-sized businesses, which increasingly are the backbone of our economy.”

The current campaign is being chaired by AGL Resources Inc. CEO John Somerhalder, who also was campaign chair in 2009. The 2011 campaign will be chaired by Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines Inc.

UPS CEO speaks

Scott Davis, CEO of United Parcel Service Inc., told members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta Dec. 6 that he would like to take newly elected members of Congress to China so they can better understand the importance of global trade and commerce.

Davis said a particular concern is that “50 to 60 percent” of the members of Congress don’t even have a passport.

Davis serves on the President’s Export Council and is a strong believer that increasing the nation’s exports will be the only way to “create jobs and get the economy going.” He said that the “Buy America” provisions in federal legislation, including the stimulus package, send the wrong message to our international trading partners.

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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