Column: Woodruff campaign may not reach goal again

By Maria Saporta
Friday, May 21, 2010

The Woodruff Arts Center corporate campaign only has a matter of days — until the end of May — to meet its $8.6 million goal.

Unless there’s a last minute dramatic and significant gift, the Woodruff Arts Center will experience its second year in its history of having a campaign that did not meet its goal. The first time was only last year, when the goal was $9 million and the Woodruff campaign was only able to raise $8.6 million.

Because of the distressed economy, the Woodruff campaign — led by Bill Linginfelter, area president for Georgia and South Carolina for Regions Bank — decided to set its goal at what it was able to raise last year. But now, it looks as though the campaign will fall short.

“The contractions and dropouts for economic reasons mean that, overall, it looks as though we are going to be $300,000 to $350,000 short,” said Beauchamp Carr, the Woodruff Arts Center executive who organizes the annual campaign.

Carr, however, was quick to recognize several high points in this year’s campaign — a first-time $100,000 gift from technology leader Chris Klaus; an additional $100,000 commitment from Jones Day for a total 2010 contribution of $225,000; and two companies now at the highest level of $450,000 — The Coca-Cola Co. and the Georgia Power Foundation.

Another positive development is that the Woodruff Arts Center has secured leadership for its next two corporate campaigns.

Kurt Kuehn, chief financial officer of United Parcel Service Inc., has agreed to serve as chairman of the 2011 campaign; and Brad Branch, Atlanta office managing partner of Deloitte, will serve as chairman of the Lead Gifts Committee. That will put Branch in line to chair the campaign in 2012.

“We have terrific leadership,” Carr said. “We couldn’t be more grateful.”

MD Anderson event

The crème-de-la-crème of Atlanta came out May 17 to the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta to support the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Tom Johnson, retired chairman of CNN, and his wife, Edwina, served as chairs of the event partly because he is on MD Anderson’s board of visitors.

Johnson also was able to secure the honored guests of the evening — CBS News’ Bob Schieffer and Sam Nunn, co-chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

The night was billed as a “Conversation with a Living Legend,” with Schieffer interviewing Nunn about international and domestic issues.

Also on hand were former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who gave the invocation; and Ted Turner, founder of both CNN and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

After Schieffer interviewed Nunn, Nunn then turned the tables on Schieffer asking the veteran newsman to analyze the state of journalism today.

“Journalism is in a crisis,” Schieffer said, largely brought on by the Internet, which delivers information that has no editor and no filter to verify accuracy. “Once this stuff gets out there, it’s out there.”

But the purpose of the dinner was to raise money for MD Anderson. John Mendelsohn, president of the cancer center since 1996, said the dinner had raised $650,000 for research.

“I promise you it will be used well,” Mendelsohn said, adding that 40 percent of the people at the dinner will have cancer at some point in their lives.

A special guest was Jeff Wigbels, who was diagnosed on Oct. 11, 2006, with Stage IV non-smoker’s lung cancer that had metastasized in his chest, abdomen and brain. The next day, Jeff’s wife, Tiffany, unaware of her husband’s cancer, delivered their second child, Jack. Wigbels ended up being treated at MD Anderson, and today the only cancer in his body is a shrunken tumor in his lung.

As a way of saying thanks, Wigbel has founded TakeAimAtCancer.org and is committed to raise $10 million for cancer research at MD Anderson.

GRA turns 20

The Georgia Research Alliance will mark its 20th birthday on June 6. The public-private partnership, with business leaders and the presidents of Georgia’s six research universities, has brought top national academic researchers, who in turn have brought millions of federal research dollars and have helped spawn new technology-oriented firms.

As a way to mark its upcoming anniversary, GRA invited developer Tom Cousins to speak at its recent quarterly board meeting. Cousins was one of the co-founders of the organization and continues to serve as a trustee emeritus.

“We had no cooperation whatever between our university presidents,” Cousins said of the pre-GRA days. “The president of Georgia Tech and the president of [The University of] Georgia literally couldn’t be in the same building.”

Pete McTier, former president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation — an early backer of the alliance, credited the business leaders and the university presidents for GRA’s longevity.

Preserving private enterprise

The Georgia Council for Economic Education honored two of its icons at its annual meeting on May 13.

First, Frank Troutman Jr., a former board chairman who has been involved with the council for 30 years, was awarded the William J. VanLandingham Commitment to Education Award.

“The reason I’ve been recognized today is longevity,” Troutman said. “I’m absolutely fanatical about preserving the private enterprise system.”

The second honoree was Michael H. Mescon, a former dean of the Georgia State University business school, the council’s first recipient of the “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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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