By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 9, 2010
The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the largest foundation in Georgia, has a new trustee — E. Jenner Wood III — a longtime executive of SunTrust Banks Inc.
Wood currently is chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust’s Central Group with responsibility for Georgia and Tennessee.
“We hit a home run with Jenner,” said Jimmy Williams, retired CEO of SunTrust who is chairman of the Woodruff Foundation. “I’ve worked with him nearly all my career.”
The Woodruff Foundation is one of the most powerful institutions in metro Atlanta and Georgia. Although the foundation prefers to operate quietly behind the scenes, it carries tremendous influence — often by providing a seal of approval for major initiatives in the Atlanta region.
The Woodruff Foundation has only five trustees on its board — Williams, Wood, former Woodruff Foundation President Pete McTier, retired King & Spalding LLP attorney Jimmy Sibley and retired Genuine Parts Co. CEO Wilton Looney.
Wood is replacing Charles Ginden, who served as executive vice president of SunTrust Banks since December 1998. Williams said Ginden has been a valuable Woodruff trustee for the past seven years before retiring from the board.
Ginden has a long track record of community involvement, serving on the boards of Emory Healthcare, Emory–Egleston Children’s Research Center, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Business Executives for National Security.
He also has served on the boards of Oglethorpe University, DeKalb Medical Center and Emory University, as well as head of various Emory-related organizations.
Wood was elected to the Woodruff Foundation board at its regular meeting on April 6, an honor bestowed to only a select few.
“Jenner is such a distinguished citizen of Atlanta, and a banking community leader,” Williams said. “We are fortunate to add him to our board, and I look forward to his leadership and involvement. I think we made just the right choice. I think it will be a wonderful fit.”
Woodruff Foundation President Russ Hardin also said the election of Wood, an Atlanta native, was an “excellent” choice.
“He loves and understands our city and state and will be a terrific addition to our board,” Hardin said.
Wood began his career with SunTrust in 1975 working in various management and executive roles with the bank until being named to his current position in June 2002.
Before joining the bank, Wood received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his MBA from Georgia State University.
His civic responsibilities include the Piedmont Healthcare System, the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation and the Rotary Club of Atlanta.
He also serves on the boards of Georgia Power Co., Oxford Industries Inc. and Crawford & Co.
The Woodruff Foundation was founded by Robert W. Woodruff, who led The Coca-Cola Co. for decades, beginning his tenure in 1923. The foundation initially was incorporated as the Trebor (Robert backward) Foundation in 1937, but it was renamed the Woodruff Foundation after Woodruff died in 1985.
The Woodruff Foundation currently has an endowment of about $2.4 billion.
Last year, it donated $106.4 million in 44 separate grants.
The Woodruff Foundation is part of a family of four foundations that have been endowed primarily by Coca-Cola interests.
In addition to the Woodruff Foundation, the other entities are the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation.
In total, the endowment of the four foundations is about $5 billion.
One of the Woodruff Foundation’s largest recent gifts occurred in March 2008 when it contributed $200 million to help launch the community effort to save Grady Memorial Hospital.
Williams said that Woods’ knowledge of Atlanta will be an asset on the Woodruff board. “We give away most of our money in Atlanta,” Williams said.