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Column: Sheffield Hale to become CEO of the Atlanta History Center

By Maria Saporta
Friday, February 10, 2012

The Atlanta History Center has selected history buff Sheffield Hale as its new president and CEO.

Hale is no stranger to the center. He has been volunteering at the Atlanta History Center for more than 25 years. He has served as chairman of the museum’s board. And most recently, he has been co-chairing its $27 million capital campaign.

“I’m passionate about history, I’m passionate about nonprofits, and I’m passionate about the city,” Hale said. “All of these things are combined into one job. I get more and more excited every day when I think about it.”

In some ways, this will be a third career for Hale, who is 51. His first career was as a partner of Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton, where he spent 16 years. His second career has been as chief counsel for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, which he joined in 2002.

In fact, Hale will celebrate his 10-year anniversary with the American Cancer Society in mid-March, and a few days later — on March 19, he will begin in his new role at the History Center.

“The timing was right,” Hale said. “The opportunity came, and it just made a lot of sense.”

The Atlanta History Center began searching for a new president and CEO last September after Sal Cilella announced he would retire from the museum at the end of February 2012 after joining the organization in 2006.

Although Hale’s name surfaced early on in the search, the center’s board decided to look nationwide to see who might be available. It hired BoardWalk Consulting to conduct the search; it conducted more than 100 interviews with possible candidates and stakeholders.

In the end, five finalists were interviewed, according to David Lanier, immediate past chair of the center’s board and chair of the search committee. Current board chair Bill Shearer of Bryan Cave also served on the committee.

“At the end of the day we couldn’t find someone who is more passionate about the Atlanta History Center than Sheffield,” Lanier said. “He helped us shape our vision. And now he can help us implement that vision. He wants to take the center to the next level.”

Hale has been instrumental in the fundraising campaign that is slated to transform the Atlanta History Center with a redesigned complex and new exhibitions. It already has raised $10.8 million toward its $27 million goal.

“Job No. 1 is finishing the capital campaign,” Hale said in a telephone interview. “I will be selling our vision, but it won’t be any different than what I was already doing.”

Lanier added that Hale is “a good fundraiser, a good cheerleader and a good CEO” — all strong qualities to run the museum.

Hale also has been active with both the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where he continues to serve as a board member.

Hale inherited his love of history and historic preservation from his father, Bradley Hale, who passed away last November. His father also had served as board chair of the History Center and also was active with the Georgia Trust and National Trust.

“I did get to talk about this [opportunity] with my dad before he passed away,” Sheffield Hale said. “It had always been my goal one day to run a nonprofit.”

Chastain Sustainability Project

Chastain Park is going green — through and through. Thanks to a unique partnership, almost all of the facilities at Chastain Park are being renovated to improve building performance and energy efficiency.

The Chastain Sustainability Project is being made possible because of a $400,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund, a charitable entity that supports environmental and sustainable efforts for nonprofits.

“It’s helping us save the city money, and it’s just the right thing to do,” said John O’Neill, who chairs the Chastain Park Conservancy and was recently named market leader for commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

The project is expected to save the city about $40,000 a year in energy costs.

“We are working to make it as much of a sustainable environment as we can. Without Kendeda, we never would have been able to do it.”

Part of the Kendeda grant also will go toward establishing a recycling program.

Georgia Southern grant

The Goizueta Foundations has given Georgia Southern University a $913,752 grant to establish and support a comprehensive Hispanic and Latino student recruitment and retention initiative.

This brings the foundation’s total contributions to Georgia Southern to more than $2.7 million over the past 10 years.

This latest grant includes $500,000 in needs-based tuition assistance; $317,752 to cover the program’s salary expenses for the next four years; and $96,000 to support bilingual marketing materials, travel and events for Hispanic and Latino student recruitment and retention.

“On behalf of the executive committee and the staff of the Goizueta Foundation, I extend our appreciation for Georgia Southern University’s vision, direction and programs,” said Olga C. de Goizueta, the foundation’s chairman of the executive committee, in a statement. “Through this partnership, we look forward to continued dialogue on the successes that Georgia Southern University encounters as it begins this new initiative.”

Ringing a bell

The Georgia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has named long-time Atlanta business leader Tom Bell as its 2012 MS Leadership Class Honorary Chairman.

The MS Society has selected 50 future Atlanta corporate leaders to participate in the 2012 class, which will help raise awareness and funds for MS research as well as engage in new professional networking opportunities.

Bell, formerly CEO of Cousins Properties, is chairman of Mesa Capital Partners, a real estate investment company. Bell also was the 2010-2011 chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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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