By Maria Saporta
It was an all-star cast that showed at today’s Atlanta Rotary Club meeting.
First, Ted Turner received the Atlanta Rotary’s Legends Award, and he was accompanied by friends and family members.
Second, Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, was the keynote speaker attracting her own cadre of friends and associates, including philanthropist Bernie Marcus and her board chair Doug Hertz.
Turner was introduced by his colleague and friend Taylor Glover, president of Turner Enterprises.
“If we think about Rotary and Atlanta, I would argue that few have done more than Ted Turner,” Glover said. “It’s truly hard to imagine any one person doing more.”
Glover spoke of how Turner donated $1 billion to establish the United Nations Foundation, how he helped inspire both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to become major global philanthropists, how he has “almost single-handedly” saved the American bison, how he launched the Nuclear Threat Initiative with former U.S. Sam Nunn.
Glover also gave Turner credit for keeping his news and media operations headquartered in Atlanta.
“There always was pressure on Ted to move CNN to New York and move the entertainment business to Los Angeles, but he kept them in Atlanta,” Glover said, adding that when Turner owned Atlanta’s professional sports teams, there never was any talk that the teams could be moved to another city.
In one of the funnier moments during the introduction, Glover explained how he has worked with Turner for more than three decades, which is a long time, but “I can assure you that it has never been boring.”
Not only does Glover oversee Turner’s business and philanthropic interests, but Turner also drags him out on walks to pick up trash downtown.
When he received his award, Turner was uncharacteristically brief in his comments. He spoke about how his father had been a Rotarian, and how he had been the youngest Rotarian in the Macon club, and how he has enjoyed partnering with Rotary International to help in the global eradication of polio.
“I have lived by Rotary’s motto and standards all my life,” Turner said, referring to “Service Above Self.”
The Children’s Healthcare part of the program was just as inspirational. Hertz told Rotarians that after being in operation for just 11 years, Children’s Healthcare is now the “largest provider of pediatric health care in the United States.
Last year , it served nearly 300,000 children and handled about 600,000 patient visits. It also provides $100 million in charitable care for the indigent and uninsured.
Hyland, who has been president and CEO for a little more than a year, described the merger of Egleston and Scottish Rite children’s hospitals in 1998 as one of the most successful hospital mergers in the country.
In 2006, Children’s expanded its care to include taking over the Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital at Grady Healthcare. Then, in 2008, Children’s also took over operations of the Marcus Autism Institute. Autism is a condition that afflicts children in Georgia at a higher rate than the national average.
Hyland said that Georgia also doesn’t fare well in national comparisons when it comes to children’s health, ranking 47th among states. Because of obesity and other illnesses, Hyland said that “living in the South may be one of the greatest predictors of poor healthcare for children.”
Meanwhile, Children’s has made a commitment to become a major center for pediatric medical research, and its board is investing $75 million in that initiative. Local foundations also have given about another $35 million to that effort.