,

Column: Skyland Trail marks a quarter century of ‘Changing Minds’

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 25, 2014

Skyland Trail will celebrate its 25th anniversary on May 2, but its real celebration will be all about “Changing Minds” in more ways than one.

The Atlanta-based nonprofit, a psychiatric treatment organization for adults with mental illness, has become a national model in the way adults afflicted with psychiatric illnesses are treated and perceived by the community at large. While the stigma has not totally gone away, it is now better understood and accepted than ever before.

So it is fitting that the American Psychiatric Association will recognize Skyland Trail on May 5 with a Special Presidential Commendation at its annual meeting in New York.

Perhaps more significantly, Skyland Trail also has launched the biggest capital campaign in its history — “Changing Minds” — for $18 million. It already has reached 88 percent of its goal thanks to a recent $5 million gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and a $1.5 million gift from the James M. Cox Foundation.

“The Woodruff Foundation gift was very important to us because we can accelerate our timeline for construction,” said Beth Finnerty, Skyland Trail’s president and CEO for 25 years. Finnerty said more than 50 percent of Skyland Trail’s admissions today are young adults between the ages of 18 and 26. The second-highest cause of death in that age group is suicide.

So Skyland Trail decided in its last strategic plan that it needed to have a separate young adult campus to better serve that population.

It has acquired a piece of property that’s connected to its current facilities on North Druid Hills Road where it will build a residential campus with 32 beds as well as therapy and treatment facilities. That facility will cost a total of $16 million with $1.5 million of that going toward an endowment.

The other $2 million of the campaign will go toward expanding Skyland Trail’s primary care clinic, which will be located in the back of the Dorothy Fuqua administration building.

“Once we do this, we will have a total of 80 beds,” Finnerty said. “We have a waiting list right now averaging four to six weeks.”

Skyland Trail kicked off its campaign in October 2013, and it has been able to raise more than $15.8 million so far thanks to the support of its longtime partners and close friends.

The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation contributed $3.5 million; the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation gave $1 million; the Fuqua Family Foundation donated $1 million; the Skyland Trail board raised $2.5 million; the staff contributed; and the facility has received the loyal support of the Charles West family.

West, who passed away last year, was largely responsible for making Skyland Trail a reality more than 25 years ago.

Finnerty said that some of the most affirming gifts have come from former clients who received treatment at Skyland Trail. The nonprofit provides a continuum of care — starting with residential treatment to independent living with day treatment and group therapy. Clients progress through different levels that include returning to school, receiving career counseling and job training as well as community-based services, therapy and psychological assessment.

“For me, 25 years is a great time to reflect on the people who have helped get us here, and the people who will lead us to the future,” Finnerty said. “We have come a long way with the stigma associated with mental illness over the past 25 years. But we still have a ways to go.”

Annual meeting recap

In a most unusual move, an outside shareholder made a proposal at the Sept. 22 annual meeting of RPC Inc., an oil and gas services company owned largely by the Rollins family.

Brady Quirk-Garvan, who was representing Walden Asset Management and several other shareholders representing 1 million shares, urged RPC to issue a sustainability report describing the company’s environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities, including greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and goals.

Quirk-Garvan said the proposal was “in no way a condemnation of RPC.”

Instead, Walden believes RPC should make its sustainability record available and that the company stands to benefit by disclosing this information because it’s “not an issue that’s going away.”

Given that RPC is controlled by the Rollins family and that its board is made up largely of inside directors, it was clear that when management objected to the proposal it would not pass.

But RPC Chairman Randall Rollins took note of the moment, saying he doesn’t ever remember there being another shareholder proposal. “And I’ve been here forever.”

Oh, so close

At the 2013 NCR annual meeting, shareholders overwhelmingly supported an advisory proposal to have all company directors elected annually rather than different classes every three years.

So at this year’s annual meeting on April 23, the company presented a proposal to amend the company’s charter to eliminate the classifications of directors and go to annual elections beginning in 2015. But there was a catch. It would require an affirmative vote of no less than 80 percent.

When the results were announced, the affirmative vote was 78 percent. Bill Nuti, NCR’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company likely would try again next year.

Meanwhile, after the meeting, Nuti was asked about NCR’s possible plans to move (headquarters or otherwise) near the Georgia Tech campus.

“I don’t know yet where that goes,” Nuti said. No matter what, Nuti said NCR will continue to be “closely aligned with Georgia Tech and other universities” in the area.

Nick Masino of Partnership Gwinnett attended NCR’s annual meeting in Gwinnett, obviously making sure the technology company knew the county still wanted the Fortune 500 company headquarters. Nuti recognized Masino in his opening remarks.

Retiring directors

Asbury Automotive said goodbye to legendary civil rights leader and now inside power broker Vernon Jordan from its board this year. Jordan did not show up for his last annual meeting on April 16.

SunTrust Banks’ CEO Bill Rogers was sad to have to say farewell to Pete Correll from his board at the annual meeting on April 22. Correll, retired CEO of Georgia-Pacific, has served on SunTrust’s board for 18 years. He had reached the mandatory retirement age of 72.

The Coca-Cola Co. said goodbye to Don McHenry, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has served on its board for 33 years. But McHenry doesn’t come close to being the company’s longest serving director. That title goes to James Robinson, former CEO of American Express, who has served on the board since 1975 and had been its presiding director until the April 23 meeting. Robinson turned over that role to former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, who is now CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. But Robinson, 78, remains on Coca-Cola’s board.

No retirement age

Longevity is a hallmark on the boards of the companies owned largely by the Rollins family. At Marine Products Corp., the youngest directors (two of them) are 69 years old — Gary Rollins and Richard Hubbell. The ages of the other directors range from 87 to 71.

Rollins Inc. actually has one director who is 56 — John Wilson, who serves as president and chief operating officer. The other directors range from 67 to 87.

And at RPC, Rollins and Hubbell again are the youngest directors. And the oldest director is 87 — Henry Tippie.

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.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.