Column: Southern Center changing mission, objectives

By Maria Saporta
Friday, September 11, 2009

The Southern Center for International Studies, an Atlanta institution since 1962, is in a major state of transition.

The center’s headquarters at 320 West Paces Ferry Road recently was sold to the Watson-Brown Foundation of Thomson, Ga., which plans to restore the historic residence designed by famous Atlanta architect Philip Trammell Shutze.

The center also is undergoing a reorganization of its mission and objectives. Founders Peter and Julia White plan to continue to work on their longtime efforts to promote global studies for K-12 students. They already have developed the curriculum materials, and now they’re trying to raise money so they can put on workshops for middle and high school teachers.

The center’s other mission — to promote international awareness and understanding in Atlanta’s corporate community — could end up becoming part of the offerings of Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

“As far as we are concerned, it is the beginning of a whole new chapter,” Peter White said of the Southern Center’s current situation.

It’s been 47 years since the Southern Center first started trying to provide a greater global perspective in the Atlanta community.

“This is an organization that has had to continually reinvent itself,” said White, explaining that having the house on West Paces was no longer integral to the center’s mission.

“The house was important at the time we got it,” White said. “It was a statement to be opposite from the Governor’s Mansion. As time has gone on, it’s no longer necessary. It hasn’t been for many years, and there was a tremendous cost associated with it.”

The Southern Center sold the residence, originally listed for $4.995 million, to the Watson-Brown Foundation for $3.6 million. Most of that went to cover the center’s debts and mortgage on the house.

Tad Brown, president of the foundation, called the residence “one of Atlanta’s architectural gems” that needed to be preserved. The James J. Goodrum House was designed in 1929 and completed in 1932.

“Our intentions are to restore it as accurately as possible back to its period of significance,” Brown said. The foundation also will house its small Atlanta office in the residence. Eventually the plan is to turn it into a “house museum” that will be available to civic organizations and the community.

“We were able to find the perfect buyer,” said Charlie Battle of Miller & Martin LLP, who has been serving as chairman of the Southern Center and has been overseeing the organization’s transition.

Battle also has been working with Wayne Lord, who spent a year as the Southern Center’s president and is now a professor in international executive education at Georgia State, exploring setting up a World Affairs Council at the business college.

“The Robinson College is exploring the possibility of creating a World Affairs Council to deal with issues of importance to global businesses,” said spokesman Gary McKillips in an e-mail. “We have nothing further to say at this time but will keep you informed of future developments.”

IMPACT awards

Eight Atlanta companies are finalists for the 2009 IMPACT awards, presented by the Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta. Winners will be announced at the 12th annual IMPACT award program held at the World of Coca-Cola on the evening of Sept. 17.

The IMPACT award finalists are Atlanta Gas Light Co. (nonprofit partner Cool Girls) and Georgia Natural Gas (nonprofit partner Centennial Place School Foundation). The winner will receive a $15,000 grant to be given to their nonprofit partner.

The other award finalists are:

The Emerging Program Award. Bouje Publishing with Junior Achievement of Georgia as its nonprofit partner; and Teradata Corp., which also has listed Junior Achievement as its nonprofit partner.

The Innovative/Collaborative Program Award. The Coca-Cola Co. with nonprofit partner Hands On Atlanta; and United Parcel Service Inc. with nonprofit partner The Clean Air Campaign.

The finalists for the Project Award are Bank of America with nonprofit partner of Neighbor to Family; and Jordan, Jones & Goulding with its nonprofit partner being Rainbow Village Inc.

Each of those award winners will receive $5,000 for the nonprofit of their choice.

Rosput Reynolds leaving NYC

Paula Rosput Reynolds did e-mail me back when I reached out to congratulate her for being ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 23rd most powerful woman in the world. But her e-mail arrived after last week’s deadline. Reynolds, who has been the chief restructuring officer for the AIG insurance company, said she would be leaving New York City in a matter of days with little sense of accomplishment.

“I am afraid that as hard as we worked on the situation, it will continue to be a very challenging one,” she wrote. “Never have I left with such a feeling of unfinished business; it’s very unfortunate.”

Reynolds, formerly CEO of AGL Resources, left Atlanta to become CEO of Seattle-based Safeco, which was later acquired.

“When Safeco was sold, I vowed to take six months off. Three weeks later, I was living in New York and drinking from the fire hose,” Reynolds said. “So, as I leave AIG, I am not going to succumb to another challenge. I am going to devote myself to my family and friends for the next few months — and then we’ll see.”

Asked if she could end up in Atlanta, Reynolds wrote: “Can only hope that destiny would bring me back to Atlanta and to my dear friends there.”

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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