Column: Woodruff Foundation funds Georgia history spots on Georgia Public Broadcasting

By Maria Saporta
Friday, January 21, 2011

Nov. 15, 1864 — Gen. William Sherman began his march of destruction in Georgia.

Dec. 7, 1946 — The historic Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta burns to the ground, killing 119 people.

Oct. 14, 1964 — Martin Luther King Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jan. 29, 1977 — Andrew Young is named U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

July 19, 1996 — The Summer Olympic Games begin in Atlanta.

Such moments soon will be immortalized as part of the “Today in Georgia History” project — a partnership between the Georgia Historical Society and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has made a $900,000 gift to fund the first year of the three-year, $3 million venture. The “Today in Georgia History” project will produce 90-second spots that will run every day of the year for three years on GPB’s television, radio and Web outlets.

In all, more than 1,000 spots will be produced that will feature special days in Georgia’s past.

Teya Ryan, GPB’s president and executive director, said the partnership will leverage her organization’s distribution network to provide educational content provided by top historians in Georgia.

“We are both stronger together than we are individually,” Ryan said. “We will produce a massive amount of material — 53 million impressions over the three years. And we will end up with all this material on a joint, interactive website for students and teachers. We will have created a whole new education tool for Georgia.”

Todd Groce, CEO and president of the Georgia Historical Society, said the goal is to launch the project on Aug. 1. “We have to have a lot of spots in the bag ready to go,” Groce said. “We will be bringing history to the public. It will be a very honest look at the past.”

The host of the 90-second spots will be Stan Deaton, the senior historian for the Society. Already, GPB and the Society are seeking funds for years two and three. After that, they plan to start rerunning the spots for another three years.

“It really is a six-year project,” Ryan said. But if the material is integrated into the state’s curriculum, its life span could be much longer. For Ryan, this could be a model for GPB partnering with other groups. “My vision is to leverage our distribution network with other organizations in the state.”

Eggs not broken

Rather amazingly, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce was able to reschedule its popular Eggs & Issues Breakfast — only two weeks after it was postponed due to the debilitating snow and ice storm that hit Atlanta during the second week of January.

The breakfast is now scheduled for Jan. 25, and it will spotlight Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.

“We were fortunate that everything aligned to allow us to reschedule the Eggs & Issues Breakfast so quickly,” said Joselyn Baker, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Chamber. “We are grateful the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker were able to do this.”

A decision has not yet been made on whether to reschedule the annual meeting reception, which also had to be canceled.

But the Georgia Chamber board will hold a board meeting right after the Eggs & Issues event, when AGL Resources Inc.’s Suzanne Sitherwood will hand the gavel to the chairman, Doug Carter, a real estate executive from Gainesville.

Dortch leads ABL, again

The Atlanta Business League installed its new officers on Jan. 18 — bringing back one of its perennial leaders.

Thomas W. Dortch, president and CEO of TWD Inc., became ABL’s board chairman — the third time he has held that position.

But in his passionate comments at the installation ceremony at the headquarters of Atlanta Life, Dortch explained that the League’s work is far from done in promoting greater business opportunities for minority firms.

“In 78 years, while we have struggled, worked hard, it’s time now for excellence without excuses,” Dortch said. “We must invest in each other. We cannot expect to hold our white brothers and sisters in Corporate America [accountable] and criticize them for not doing business [with us] when we don’t provide opportunities for each other.”

And he urged the African-American business community in Atlanta to recommit to supporting the ABL.

Specifically, he said his goals as chair include retiring the $360,000 mortgage on ABL’s building and doubling membership from about 500 to more than 1,000.

Leona Barr-Davenport, ABL’s president and CEO, said that membership goal is attainable because the organization has a database of more than 20,000.

Dortch, and past chair David Moody, both said one of their top initiatives would be to get greater participation from young African-American business leaders.

“We are going to focus on how we engage the next generation,” Dortch said. “I’m 60 years old. I beat cancer twice. I won’t be here forever. We have to make sure we engage young people.”

KIPP campaign complete

KIPP Metro Atlanta, which operates free public charter schools, will celebrate the completion of its $6.5 million capital campaign on Friday, Jan. 21 at 8 a.m. at the KIPP STRIVE Academy at 1444 Lucille Ave. in southwest Atlanta.

For the past 18 months, Kipp has conducted a capital campaign to make “significant” improvements to three of its school facilities — KIPP STRIVE Academy, KIPP South Fulton Academy and KIPP Vision Academy.

KIPP officials will provide an overview of the campaign and celebrate the completion of work at the KIPP STRIVE Academy. Recall Corp. representatives also will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting for a computer lab named for the company’s support.

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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