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Column: Stephanie Blank to chair Alliance Theatre’s 2013 Tony Gala

By Maria Saporta

Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, March 22, 2013

Philanthropist Stephanie Blank is combining two of her passions — early education and the arts — by chairing the Alliance Theatre’s 2013 A Tony Evening Gala on May 18.

The event will benefit the Alliance Theatre’s educational programming for youth and families. Tony Award-winning actress Jane Krakowski, of TV’s “30 Rock”, will headline the Alliance Theatre’s gala this year.

A kickoff breakfast for the gala was held March 20 at Tony Conway’s new venue — Legendary Event’s 3109 Piedmont Estates and Gardens in the former Anthony’s location.

Blank said investing in quality early education is the “most effective use of public and private dollars” that society can make.

Fellow believers on the morning panel were Susan Booth, the Alliance Theatre’s artistic director; Eddie Meyers, PNC Bank’s regional president for Greater Georgia; and Mel Ming, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, as in “Sesame Street.”

PNC Bank has made early education a top civic priority nationally — investing $350 million in a program called Grow Up Great.

“We as a company decided we were going to have a positive impact on kids at an early age,” Meyers said, adding that the company also has urged each employee to volunteer 40 hours a year to the cause.

The May 18 gala will honor Georgia Power Co. President and CEO Paul Bowers, for his work in education as well as his involvement with the arts. Bowers is chairing this year’s Woodruff Arts Center campaign.

The gala also will honor the Sesame Workshop for its continuing support of the arts in early childhood education. “Sesame Street,” which is 43 years old, is now preparing its 45th season, Ming said. Sesame Workshop currently produces 36 different Sesame Street productions that are aired in 150 different countries.

“We are creating a universe of Sesame graduates,” said Ming, adding that children who have grown up with “Sesame Street” perform better in school than children who have not been exposed to the educational television program. “We are about creating images that teach.”

Sesame Workshop also has picked Atlanta to be one of three pilot cities for an interactive curriculum for teachers. Teachers will be able to use their tablet devices to find Sesame educational programs on any particular topic related to what they’re teaching in the classroom, Blank said.

When asked what she would change in the field of early education, Blank said it would be in the allocation of funding. She would shift a greater share of public and private dollars to the first five years of life, which would save money in the long run.

Boys & Girls Clubs

More than 1,800 teen leaders are gathering in Atlanta as part of the 46th annual National Keystone Conference — the major Boys & Girls Clubs of America youth leadership conference — through March 24.

The conference, being held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, includes a host of CEOs, civic leaders and entertainers.

Those attending include Jim Clark, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs; Amy Kavanaugh, executive director of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens; Glen Walter, president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Refreshments and member of the BGCA board.

The conference includes musical performances by pop/R&B singer and actress Jordin Sparks; hip-hop recording artist B.o.B.; and pop group OMG Girlz; as well as motivational sessions featuring artists including Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-D.M.C., Doug. E. Fresh and DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa.

The conference focuses on how teens can best prepare for successful academic and professional careers.

Georgia Council on Economic Education

The Georgia Council on Economic Education, a nonprofit organization that helps teachers teach economics, has named six new members to its board.

They are: Tracy Bradshaw, a vice president of Waffle House; Christophe Cadiou, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers; Houston Davis, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer of the Georgia Board of Regents; Beth Day, director of communications for the Southern Regional Education Board; Hays B. Evans, financial consultant with Evans, Watts & Henshaw; Angi Christiansen Harben, director of communications of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates; and W. Ron Hinson, treasurer and CFO of Georgia Power.

Gary Price, managing partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, serves as chairman; Marie Gooding, chief operating officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is vice chair and chair-elect. Matthew Wofersberger, director of research for the Georgia Retirement Systems, is secretary-treasurer.

David Martin serves as the council’s executive director.

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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