30 Years Of Influence

A look at who helped shape the state, how it’s changed over three decades and what’s ahead.

Over the past 30 years, the number of people who have influenced and changed Georgia are too many to count. Still, there are some whose effect – whether by their personal convictions or through the positions they hold – is undeniable.

Georgia Trend selected 30 people from business, government, nonprofits, philanthropy, education and the arts that we felt best represented all the ways Georgia has grown and thrived over the past 30 years. Many continue as leaders in their fields, others have left the limelight, but all have had a profound impact on the Peach State and have contributed to our success in myriad ways.

The profiles were written by Ellen Berman, Christy Simo, Mary Anne Dunkin, Karen Kirkpatrick, Susan Percy, K.K. Snyder and Randy Southerland. – The Editors

A HOUSEHOLD NAME

DAN AMOS

Dan Amos is chairman and CEO of Columbus-based insurance giant Aflac, a Fortune 500 company widely recognized for its workplace satisfaction and ethical practices. Aflac insures more than 50 million worldwide and has seen its revenue increase to more than $20 billion during Amos’ tenure as CEO since 1990.

Amos – son of co-founder Paul Amos – is credited with launching the national advertising campaign featuring the now-famous white-feathered and frustrated Aflac duck that has served to make the company a household name. His transparent approach to investor and shareholder relations is widely noted, earning him numerous accolades both personally and professionally.

The absence of any job cuts under his leadership has earned Amos unsurpassed employee loyalty. In fact, during the banking and investment firm crisis of 2008, Amos voluntarily relinquished his own $13-million golden parachute and a $2.8-million bonus. It’s choices like these that have led to the company consistently being named a Best Company to Work For and one of the World’s Most Admired Companies by Fortune magazine, among others. 

“If you’re not making a few mistakes, you aren’t taking enough chances,” Amos told Georgia Trend in 2010, when he was named Most Respected Business Leader. “You want to make decisions that push the envelope a little bit. If everything you do is right, then maybe you’re in too safe a territory.”

 Amos is also dedicated to raising funds to battle childhood cancer. In 1995, under his leadership, the company established the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Since then, the company has donated $50 million to the center to help it become one of the country’s leading pediatric cancer, hematology and bone marrow transplant programs today. – KS


SETTING THE STAGE

GEORGE BERRY

During his long career in public service and business, George Berry had a hand in several events that changed the trajectory of Georgia’s future.

He was there in the 1970s when Georgia’s film industry was first getting its legs, setting the stage for today’s multi-billion dollar juggernaut of an industry.

He was there in 1985, when the state saw a surge of Japanese investment, a harbinger of the international investment and headquarters that now seem to be announced daily.

And, as the Commissioner of Aviation, he was there when the sleepy Atlanta airport expanded its terminals and runways in the early 1980s, paving the way for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s rise to prominence as the busiest airport in the world. 

During his career, Berry worked in the administrations of three different mayors, was appointed by Mayor Maynard Jackson as Commissioner of Aviation in 1978, and was Georgia’s Commissioner of Industry, Trade and Tourism from 1983 to 1990. He later served as a senior vice president at real estate company Cousins Properties for a number of years while also serving on numerous boards dedicated to promoting Georgia business.

 “It all had a common thread,” Berry told Georgia Trend in 2005. “Economic progress as a way to raise up Georgia’s people.” – CS


BUILDING A BETTER WORLD

ARTHUR BLANK

A former accountant and drug store executive, Arthur Blank and colleague Bernie Marcus combined the home improvement business and warehouse concept to found The Home Depot in 1978. In 2001, Blank left the home improvement and building business to build a sports empire and a life of giving back through philanthropy. Shortly after retiring, he bought the Atlanta Falcons franchise and three years later bought the Arena Football League’s Georgia Force, which he moved back to Atlanta from Gwinnett County.

“[The Falcons are] Atlanta’s team, not mine; I’m just the custodian, the watchdog,” Blank told Georgia Trend in 2003, when he was named the magazine’s Most Respected CEO. “It’s all about people.” 

Now, he’s bringing Major League Soccer to the state, with Atlanta United to start playing games in 2017, sharing the $1.4-billion, 71,000-seat facility now under construction for the Atlanta Falcons and building a $300-million soccer complex in DeKalb County.

Blank is also chairman of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which over the past decade has invested nearly $10 million into efforts to improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding the new stadium.

“We’ve taken it on as a challenge – individually, collectively, as a leadership team, our foundation, to make a difference in the west side of Atlanta,” he told Georgia Trend in 2014. “We take that commitment very seriously.”

Through the foundation and his family’s personal giving, Blank has granted more than $300 million to various charitable organizations. As a signatory of the Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give to philanthropic causes, he has committed himself to giving away at least half his wealth – $2.5 billion in 2015 – to charitable endeavors. – MAD


FEEDING THE HUNGRY

BILL BOLLING

When Bill Bolling announced he’d be stepping down from his role as executive director of Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) after 36 years of service, he gave up the day-to-day duties not to go fishing or kick back in a recliner, but to concentrate on other areas of community service.

It’s that selfless philosophy that has led Bolling through four decades of service to the Atlanta community, especially those in need. His founding of one of the most successful food banks in the country – and one of the city’s most successful nonprofits overall – was just the beginning of his unflagging dedication to the hungry and impoverished in Atlanta.

For Bolling, and the people ACFB serves, the organization is about more than putting food on the table. It’s also about bringing to the table other issues that plague those in need, including affordable housing. What began as an effort merely to secure food for the community kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 1979 soon expanded to encompass other organizations, centralizing acquisition and distribution of healthy food to maximize valued donations.

Now in a senior advisor role, Bolling continues his efforts to address the needs of the poor and homeless that reach beyond hunger, including, in many cases, mental health challenges, spiritual needs and lack of education and access to resources.

“It’s all about the community. It always has been, and I’m just one among the many,” Bolling told Georgia Trend in 2012, when he was named Georgian of the Year.

Having provided 51.7 million pounds of food in 2014 – enough to provide nearly half a million meals – the food bank’s employees and volunteers behind its success know putting food on the table is just the beginning of the conversation. – KS


PROMOTING PEACE

JIMMY CARTER

You can’t talk about Jimmy Carter’s influence on the state – and the world – without going back a bit further than 30 years. Carter served in the Georgia Senate and as governor of Georgia before being elected the 39th president of the United States in 1976 and putting his hometown of Plains on the international map.

And while for many, the job of president may be seen as the culmination of a career, for Carter it was but a stop on a long and winding road. Since leaving the White House, he has been an outspoken champion of peace and diplomacy across the globe, work that was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He has also served as a staunch supporter of Habitat for Humanity since 1984.

This is all in addition to the work of the Carter Center in Atlanta, which he founded in 1982. The nonpartisan organization works globally to resolve conflicts, promote democracy, protect human rights and eradicate disease.

Carter, 90, now faces a more personal challenge. He recently revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer.

As governor, Carter called for an end to segregation, and he continues to pound his fist for civil rights – adding his voice of support to the cause of gay marriage. Carter, a religious man, said in an interview this summer that he believes “Jesus would approve gay marriage. … I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.” – KK


PIONEERING CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

ANN CRAMER

While today social responsibility is seen as an integral component of the most successful companies, it wasn’t always that way. During her 33 years at IBM, first as systems engineer and later as director of corporate citizenship, Ann Cramer helped promote the concept of corporate social responsibility at a time when it was a novel ideal – noble, but not really important when it came to the bottom line. Cramer showed everyone otherwise.

 “What it means to be a good corporate citizen isn’t just doing good in the local community,” Cramer told Georgia Trend in 2005. “It’s lifting that up a notch, taking a strategic approach to making a difference, going from spare change to real change.”

Today, she continues her commitment to giving back as senior consultant at Coxe Curry & Associates, a fundraising consulting firm that serves nonprofits throughout Georgia.

She has made serving children and young people a lifelong commitment. Over the years, she has helped countless organizations dedicated to doing good, including The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Atlanta Partners for Education, United Way of Greater Atlanta, Leadership Atlanta, the Arts and Business Council, the World Class Schools Foundation and the Junior League of Atlanta Inc.

Her work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous awards for her efforts, including the 2011 Revolution Legendary Philanthropist Award from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

As the leader of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Educated Workforce committee, she has led the effort to improve educational opportunities for the region. She also serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Public Broadcasting Atlanta, University of Georgia Board of Visitors, the Hands On Atlanta Advisory Board and the Atlanta Cities of Service Board, and she currently chairs the advisory councils for the Alliance Theatre and Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. – RS


TOP DAWG

VINCE DOOLEY

Having served 25 years as head football coach at the University of Georgia, Vince Dooley remains one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history, leading the Bulldogs to 201 wins and 20 bowl games during his tenure. Following his retirement from the field in 1988, Dooley served 15 years as athletic director before full retirement in 2004. Named NCAA National Coach of the Year twice and SEC Coach of the Year seven times, Dooley’s work at UGA was respected by players, coaches and avid sports fans across the nation, regardless of team affiliation.

He’s been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Alabama’s Hall of Fame. (Dooley played football at Auburn.) Following two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Dooley returned to his alma mater, where he served as assistant coach and later freshman coach under the leadership of Shug Jordan. He was just 31 years old when UGA hired him as their head coach. In 1980, Dooley led the team through an undefeated season to its first National Championship in nearly 40 years.

Engaged frequently for public speaking, Dooley and his wife Barbara continue to live in Athens, trading football for gardening. Known widely for his green thumb, Dooley has a rose named after him by the University of Georgia Department of Horticulture. In addition to a memoir – Dooley: My 40 Years at Georgia – he also penned Vince Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach, blending stories of both of his passions between two covers. – KS


ECONOMIC ENGINE

CURTIS J. FOLTZ 

As executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Foltz administers a $280-million annual budget managing all activity in the Savannah and Brunswick ports, in addition to terminal operations in Bainbridge and Columbus. Between 2004 and 2009, he learned the ropes while serving as GPA’s chief operations officer, where he guided its growth and profitability.

Foltz’s keen strategic insight and focused expertise on transportation and international relations has helped grow Georgia’s ever-rising tide of port business.

As keeper of keys at the ports, Foltz has overseen record growth and is now shepherding the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to fruition. The project, widely regarded as the most critical infrastructure project in Georgia in decades and more than 20 years in the making, will deepen the Savannah River by five feet to accommodate ever-larger cargo ships that will soon be headed our way from the Panama Canal. Meanwhile, record growth has made the Port of Brunswick the No. 1 entry point for cars into the United States, and the Port of Savannah is the fourth-busiest container port in the country and the second busiest on the East Coast.

“Whenever we announce a new record in container volume or number of autos moved through the ports, this means that we’re adding jobs to the Georgia economy,” Foltz said to Georgia Trend last year. “Everything we do is about bringing more business and jobs to Georgia and the Southeast.” – EB


MADAM MAYOR

SHIRLEY FRANKLIN

In November 2001, Shirley Franklin became the 58th mayor of Atlanta and the first African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major southern city. In November 2005 she was elected to a second term, with more than 90 percent of the vote.

As mayor, Franklin’s first assignment was to balance the city’s budget. Through some tough measures, including cutting her own staff and salary, she whittled down the $82-million deficit inherited from her predecessor. She also had to rebuild the city’s aging sewer system to the tune of $4 billion after it was deemed in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Franklin championed the Atlanta BeltLine when it was still only a distant vision. She also helped the city secure the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. and supported building the Center for Civil & Human Rights to house them.

Public-private partnerships were a staple of her administration. “I learned early on, particularly from Andy Young, that the business community is an important part of what makes a city great,” Franklin told Georgia Trend in 2007, when she was named Georgian of the Year. “These are the people who invest and reinvest.”

Today, Franklin is chairman of the board and CEO of Purpose Built Communities – a nonprofit consulting firm that helps struggling communities implement a proven model to end poverty, substandard education, unemployment, health disparities and other challenges threatening urban America. – MAD


FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION

JOE FRANK HARRIS

As the 78th governor of Georgia, Joe Frank Harris is known for the conservative, businesslike approach he brought to the Gold Dome. Harris took office in 1983, at a time when Georgia’s economy was rebounding from the recession of the early 1980s. By the end of his term in 1991, Harris had improved education funding for the state through the passage of the Quality Basic Education Act in 1985, expanded the state’s highway system and diversified Georgia’s economy. During his tenure, the state secured the 1996 Olympic Games, and the Georgia Dome – at the time the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world – opened in 1992.

A Cartersville native, Harris had no aspirations of a political career when he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1958. He was working in his family’s concrete business when a group of local leaders encouraged him to run for the Georgia House of Representatives, where he ultimately served nine consecutive terms before joining the governor’s race. 

After retiring as governor, Harris returned to private business. In 1999, then-Gov. Roy Barnes appointed him to a seven-year term on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Harris also served as a distinguished executive fellow and lecturer in the School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He continues to serve on the boards of several charities and businesses. – MAD


KINDER, GENTLER FARMER

WILL HARRIS

In the 1990s, Will Harris was running White Oak Pastures in Bluffton as a high-volume cattle business. Today it is the largest USDA Certified Organic farm in Georgia. He became increasingly disgusted with the excesses of conventional ways and wanted to embrace “a kinder, gentler agriculture.” It meant a lot of changes and some years of financial struggles, but today White Oak Pastures produces grass-fed beef, free-range chickens and other species, all humanely raised without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or cages, and grows heritage vegetables.

Harris is one of the largest employers in his corner of Southwest Georgia and has received the University of Georgia’s Award of Excellence and the Governor’s Award for Environmental Stewardship.

He describes his operation as a simple business with a lot of parts and likes to quote George Washington Carver: “In nature there is no waste.” The agricultural practices he turned away from came out of the post World War II era that sought to make food more available and cheaper by centralizing, industrializing and commoditizing.

Harris is passionate about environmental stewardship and especially animal welfare, which goes beyond simply not inflicting pain and suffering, but giving animals an ability to express instinctive behavior.

Yet, as a businessman, he says, “The math has to work; the operation has to be economically viable.” – SP


CARING FOR KIDS

DONNA HYLAND

For more than 28 years, Donna Hyland has influenced how healthcare is delivered to children in the state.

As president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), she is well known among parents and children in the metro area – the organization provides medical care to more than half a million young patients annually at its three hospitals and the Marcus Autism Center.

During her tenure at CHOA, first as a comptroller, then CFO and later COO in 2003 before taking the helm in 2008, she has seen tremendous growth of the system, including the 1998 merger of Egleston Children’s Health Care System and Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, as well as the addition of the Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital in 2006 and Marcus Autism Center in 2008. Today, CHOA is one of the largest and best pediatric healthcare providers in the country. It’s consistently ranked as a Top Pediatric Hospital by U.S. News & World Report, and Fortune magazine has named it one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For for 10 consecutive years.

But Hyland’s job is more than just a corporate position. “Every day, people hand us the most precious things in their lives, their children,” Hyland told Georgia Trend in 2011, when she was named Most Respected Business Leader.

Her influence goes beyond the hospital walls. She is on the boards of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Metro Atlanta and Georgia Chambers of Commerce and the University of Georgia Board of Visitors, among others. She was also appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission and served on his Georgia Competitiveness Initiative. – RS


VETERANS ADVOCATE

JOHNNY ISAKSON

Serving as U.S. senator since 2005, Johnny Isakson was a household political name in Georgia for decades before that, having served in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Georgia General Assembly. Currently recognized as one of the most conservative U.S. senators, the longstanding public servant speaks loudly regarding issues such as illegal immigration and immigration reform and has introduced legislation concerning both.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the Senate passed Isakson’s legislation to create the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the near collapse of the banking system and loss of tens of trillions of dollars. As current chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and himself a veteran, Isakson and his peers sought this Congressional session to improve mental healthcare and suicide prevention resources for American veterans, praising the full Senate’s unanimous passing of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. He also serves as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

“I understand that no man accomplishes anything on his own merit, but you do so by getting a collection of people to come together on common ground,” he told Georgia Trend in 2007. “That’s the way I’ve always operated.”

Isakson is also recognized as a business leader in the Atlanta area, having served two decades as president of Northside Realty. An original author of the No Child Left Behind Act, he’s served as chair of the Georgia Board of Education and taught Sunday school at his Marietta church for 30 years. Earlier this year, Isakson publicly revealed he has Parkinson’s disease, diagnosed in 2013, but still plans to seek reelection in 2016. – KS


THE REAL THING

MUHTAR KENT

Coca-Cola Co. Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent joined the company in 1978, after responding to a newspaper ad for a job delivering Cokes to retail outlets. In the first of what would be many positions with the beverage giant, he gained insight into the company’s distribution, marketing and logistics system.  

Kent became CEO of the 129-year-old Atlanta institution in 2008 and added the chairman of the board title in 2009, succeeding such civic and corporate icons as Robert Woodruff and Roberto Goizueta.

His tenure has coincided with challenges to Coke’s business, including the Great Recession and growing health problems related to obesity. That said, however, Coke continues to be the real thing. The company now offers more than 3,500 products in more than 200 countries worldwide.

 “We have a magnificent dynamic footprint of nonalcoholic beverages around the world,” Kent told Georgia Trend in 2011. “We lead in most categories of nonalcoholic beverages, and we’re proud to do so. We provide not just refreshment, but moments of pleasure and hydration to people a billion times every day.”

Kent has firmed up the company’s commitment to sustainability with a focus on three priorities: the economic empowerment of women worldwide; inspiring people to healthier and happier lives; and the replenishment of 100 percent of the company’s water use by 2020.

 Kent is also active in the global business community. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group and serves on the boards of 3M, Special Olympics International, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catalyst and Emory University. – MAD


CONGRESSIONAL CONSCIENCE

JOHN LEWIS

A half-century after he was struck by a state trooper’s club and knocked unconscious at the Edmund Pettus Bridge as he was attempting to lead a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., Congressman John Lewis introduced the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama, to the thousands who had gathered in commemoration, then walked across the bridge with him.

“I am blessed,” he told a gathering just a few days later. “I am blessed to serve in Congress. I am blessed to be an American.”

Lewis, who grew up in rural Alabama, is a former Atlanta City Council member who has represented Atlanta’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He was a major force in the Civil Rights Movement, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. As a college student at Fisk University, he headed SNCC – the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – and was one of the architects of the landmark 1963 March on Washington. The Selma marches, and the national media coverage they drew, are credited with securing passage of The Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As a congressman, Lewis has continued his fight for the rights of all citizens and has earned a reputation as the conscience of the Congress. He says he has no time for bitterness or discouragement and calls his work “the struggle of a lifetime.” – SP


CIVIL RIGHTS ICON

JOSEPH LOWERY

A civil rights leader, social activist and minister, Joseph Lowery has devoted a half-century of his life to fighting prejudice and discrimination against African Americans. Today, he is one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and America.

A native of Huntsville, Ala., he is the son of a teacher and businessman. Growing up, he saw firsthand the cruelty that African Americans suffered each day in the segregated South. He was just 12 when he was beaten after accidentally bumping into a white police officer.

Called to the ministry, he became pastor of the Warren Street United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala. Inspired by the Montgomery bus boycott, he helped launch a drive to end the same discriminatory practices in Mobile.

It was the beginning of a long and distinguished career as an activist. In 1957, Lowery joined with Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and others to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Later, he walked beside King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

In 2001, the Joseph & Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights at Clark Atlanta University was established with the mission to “empower, inspire and train current and future leaders to improve their communities locally, nationally and internationally for the common good.”

In 2008, Lowery delivered the benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Later that year, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his nonviolent efforts for civil rights, peace and human dignity. – RS


GIVING BACK

BERNIE MARCUS

Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus was raised in a Newark, N.J., tenement to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He dreamed of becoming a doctor, but when he could not afford medical school tuition he instead worked his way through college and earned his pharmacy degree from Rutgers University.

After several pharmacy and retail jobs following graduation, Marcus ended up as a top executive at the Los Angeles-based Handy Dan Improvement Centers, where he met Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. Since retiring as The Home Depot’s chairman of the board in 2002, Marcus, like Blank, has devoted his life to giving back.

As a signatory of the Giving Pledge, Marcus has committed himself to giving away at least half of his wealth – estimated at $3.8 billion in 2015 – to charitable endeavors.

Recipients of his philanthropy have included the Israel Democracy Institute, which he co-founded in 1991; the Georgia Aquarium, which he helped launch in 2005; the Marcus Institute, which he founded in 1991 and was later renamed the Marcus Autism Center; Autism Speaks, for which he serves on the board of directors; and the Marcus Foundation, which supports human services, mental health, Jewish federated giving programs, education and public affairs.

Marcus is also a volunteer and board member for Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, where he focuses on providing care for war veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

“I never meant to be an influence,” Marcus told Georgia Trend in 2007, when he was inducted into the magazine’s Most Influential Hall of Fame. “I just wanted to get involved in things that are critically important.” – MAD


DELIVERING HOPE

ZELL MILLER

A former Marine, history teacher and 38-year veteran of government, Zell Miller served Georgia as its 79th governor from 1991 to 1999, its lieutenant governor from 1975 to 1991 and as U.S. senator from 2000 to 2005.

Of all of his achievements during his tenure, Miller is perhaps best known and most proud of what he has done for the state’s education system – creating the HOPE scholarship and state-funded pre-K program – without raising taxes. He had the idea of a state lottery – and was able to sell Georgia voters on it – with the sole purpose of funding specific education programs.

The first HOPE scholarship was awarded in 1993. Today, more than 1.5 million students have earned an education thanks to more than $6.4 billion in funds, and the program is considered by many to be one of the most successful student financial assistance programs in the country.

“I dreamed of doing something in politics,” Miller told Georgia Trend in 2005. “I never in all my wildest dreams imagined what would happen.”

After retiring from the Senate in 2005, Miller returned to Georgia where he resumed his teaching career and continues to be active in public affairs. In 2008, the Zell B. Miller Learning Center at the University of Georgia was dedicated in his honor. – MAD


EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

JERE MOREHEAD

Jere W. Morehead was no stranger to the University of Georgia when he became its 22nd president on July 1, 2013. Before his appointment to the university’s highest administrative position, he had served in a wide range of faculty and administrative roles, including UGA’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost since 2010, vice president for instruction, vice provost for academic affairs and associate provost and director of the honors program. 

Since assuming his role as educator-in-chief, Morehead has been determined to see that the state’s flagship university retains its excellence while evolving into a truly 21st century public university. He created an office of economic development to ensure UGA is offering the education business and industry in Georgia require; started a capital campaign with the goal of raising $1 billion (that’s with a “b”); and even found time to get back into the classroom. (He received UGA’s highest teaching award back in the day.)

As for his priorities going forward, “Excellence is what we demand for our programs at the University of Georgia, and excellence is what we expect from our academic programs,” he told Georgia Trend last year. “So growing our research enterprise, increasing our already high graduation rates, serving the people of Georgia in more ways – those are the sorts of priorities I’m going to remain focused on as president.” – MAD


JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY

BILLY MORRIS

“There has never been a time within my memory that the newspaper has not been an integral part of my life,” wrote William S. “Billy” Morris III on the front page of The Augusta Chronicle in 1966. “A newspaper’s first job, of course, is to print the news accurately and without fear or favor. This we shall do.”

In the years since, Morris has been the consummate newspaperman. He is still publisher of the “South’s Oldest Newspaper.” He is also chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., which owns 12 newspapers, 36 radio stations, visitor guides, magazine and book publishing businesses, two event marketing companies and is a provider of broadband services to local communities.

He has served as chairman and a director of the Newspaper Association of America, the Associated Press and the Advertising Council Inc.

Of course, Morris sees his responsibilities as extending beyond just publishing successful newspapers. He’s been chairman of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and a director of the National Science Center Foundation. He’s supported education as a trustee of the Augusta College Foundation, Paine College, the University of Georgia Foundation and Columbia Theological Seminary.

Morris’s influence is so widespread that The Wall Street Journal once opined that Morris would be the most famous resident of Augusta – if only the legendary James Brown didn’t live there as well. – RS


BIPARTISAN APPROACH

SAM NUNN

Known for embracing a solidly bipartisan approach to politics, Perry native Sam Nunn served for 24 years as a U.S. senator from Georgia after a four-year stint in the Georgia General Assembly. His across-the-aisle lawmaking style made him an ally among many of his peers. Nunn’s standout legislative achievements include the landmark Department of Defense Reorganization Act and the Nunn-Lugar Act of 1991, the latter providing more than two decades of assistance to Russia and the former Soviet republics with securing and destroying weapons of mass destruction.

A respected authority on foreign policy and defense, Nunn currently serves as CEO and co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which he founded with Ted Turner. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization works to strengthen global security by preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Nunn favored the policy side of politics and has taken that expertise into the classroom. His ongoing work in the public policy arena includes his role as distinguished professor with Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. He also chairs the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. – KS


LASTING LEGACY

BILLY PAYNE

Billy Payne created a lasting legacy for Atlanta by spearheading, and ultimately winning, Atlanta’s bid for the Olympics in 1996 as CEO and president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

When the International Olympics Committee announced that Atlanta would be hosting in 1996, the news was greeted with shock. It was the centennial games. It was supposed to go to Athens, Greece. Or maybe even Melbourne or Toronto. But instead, in a major upset, it was heading to a Southern U.S. city many knew little about.

The only person not shocked by the news was Payne, who had chased his dream with a single-minded tenacity from the time the idea first popped into his head in 1987.

And Payne had dreamed big. When it was all said and done, the Olympics had an economic impact of at least $5.1 billion. While Atlanta was host to the main action, the games reached all corners of the state.

But its impact was greater than just the $600 million worth of physical structures that were built to host the games. More than 2 million visitors came to Atlanta to watch the games, and about 3.5 billion more watched them on TV. Hosting the Olympics changed the image of Atlanta around the world and solidified its reputation as the capital of the South.

“I’ve had time to look back and reflect and become fully aware of what our athletes were doing,” Billy Payne told Georgia Trend in 2014, when he was named a Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society. “And it was nothing short of amazing.”

Today he is chairman of Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC), home of the Masters, where, under his leadership, in 2012 the ANGC admitted its first female members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore. – EB


TECHNOLOGY EXPLOSION

BUD PETERSON

As the 11th president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, G.P. “Bud” Peterson oversees a top 10 public research university with more than 21,000 students and research expenditures of more than $730 million.

Under his leadership, which began in 2009, Tech has developed and begun the implementation of Designing the Future, a 25-year strategic plan. Launched with the plan was the public phase of Campaign Georgia Tech, which surpassed its $1.5-billion goal this summer. Gifts will fund endowed chairs and professorships, scholarships and fellowships as well as build facilities and achieve other goals of the strategic plan.

During Peterson’s tenure, the entire world – from business to medicine to education to our homes – has become increasingly tech focused. Georgia Tech has responded to this sea change with business incubators, research partnerships and outreach designed to draw young people into the STEM fields. Then there’s Technology Square, the school’s booming complex of academic, retail and research space across the Connector from campus that continues to draw millions of dollars of investment and headquarters to Midtown Atlanta, including NCR, scheduled to break ground on its 485,000-square-foot building early next year. – MAD


MAKING A DIFFERENCE

ALICIA PHILIPP

For more than 30 years, Philipp has guided and strengthened the efforts of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to nurture nonprofit organizations and increase local involvement in philanthropy. The Community Foundation serves 23 counties in Metro Atlanta. That its assets have grown from $7 million in 1977 to more than $930 million today is a testament to her dedication to and her vision for making a difference for people in need.

Working with more than 650 individual funds and supporting organizations, the Community Foundation collaborates with donors to generate an average of more than $75 million in grants annually to an estimated 2,000 nonprofit organizations locally, nationally and internationally. Under Philipp’s leadership and through her expertise in grant making, fundraising and engaging with donors, many nonprofit initiatives have launched and proven successful, such as the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Atlanta AIDS Partnership Fund, the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund and the Neighborhood Fund.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. She received the 2010 John H. Allen Humanitarian Award from Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters, the Community Leadership Award by the Harvard Business School Club of Atlanta and the Atlanta Women’s Foundation Shining Star award. She has also been recognized as an Achiever by the YMCA and received the Roz Cohen Community Action Award and the Emory Medal, Emory University’s highest honor for alumni. – EB


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

ANNE QUATRANO

Get into a discussion about the most influential chefs in Georgia, and at some point, Anne Quatrano’s name will come up. As chef and owner with her husband Clifford Harrison of four restaurants in Atlanta, including the highly esteemed Bacchanalia, Quatrano’s kitchen has been a proving ground for many chefs who have gone on to become well known in their own right. Her restaurants were also some of the first in the region to advocate for the now ubiquitous farm-to-table concept and commit to using local produce. Of course, having your own farm made that task a little easier. She and Harrison live on the 60-acre Summerland Farm in Cartersville – the fifth generation to own the land, which provides organic produce used in their restaurants.

Anne Quatrano grew up in Connecticut but developed a passion for cooking during summers at her grandmother’s kitchen and at Summerland. Those experiences inspired her to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, where she was taught by chefs like Alice Waters and where she met Harrison.

Quatrano received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2003. Like many in the industry, she is committed to giving back. She gives her time to numerous organizations, coordinating the New South Supper to benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance and hosting Sunday Supper South, a dinner that raises funds to support the James Beard Foundation and its scholarship program.

This year Quatrano and Harrison opened a new restaurant, Little Bacch, replacing the former Quinones Room. Small and intimate, the new eatery offers just 52 seats but the same commitment to fine ingredients and cooking. And look for W.H. Stiles Fish Camp, a nod to her ancestor that will serve sandwiches and steamed fish bowls, as part of the Central Food Hall in Atlanta’s huge Ponce City Market development this fall. – CS


GOOD FOR GEORGIA

KASIM REED

Kasim Reed won his first term as mayor of Atlanta in 2009 by a 714-vote margin in a contentious runoff election; four years later, he eased into a second term with a whopping 85 percent of the votes.

In between, he pushed a tough pension reform bill through the Atlanta City Council, increased the number of police officers on the streets and re-opened city parks and recreation centers that had been shuttered because of budget shortfalls. He also saw to it that the Falcons will continue to play in downtown Atlanta, partnering with the football franchise and its owner Arthur Blank.

A native Atlantan, former state legislator and staunch Democrat with ties to the Obama Administration, Reed has made a point of working with the state’s Republican leadership, particularly Gov. Nathan Deal. He pushed hard for the harbor-deepening project at the Savannah port, decades in the talking stage and now a work in progress.

Reed is smart, competitive, pragmatic and outspoken. He is known to be blunt, but effective. He’s a lawyer by training, likely to run for a statewide office once his term as mayor is over – although he hasn’t said which office. Deal has said of Reed: “He gets that what’s good for Georgia is also good for Atlanta – and every other town in this great state for that matter.” – SP


JUSTICE FOR ALL

LEAH WARD SEARS

A practicing attorney with Schiff Hardin, Leah Ward Sears can boast many firsts. She was the first African-American woman to hold a position on the Superior Court of Fulton County (in 1988) and the first woman and – at 36 – the youngest person to ever sit on Georgia’s Supreme Court when she was appointed by Zell Miller in 1992. She was also the first woman to win a contested statewide election in Georgia when she retained her seat on the state’s Supreme Court that same year.

In 2005, she became chief justice and, in the process, the first African-American woman in the nation to head a state supreme court. During her tenure, she earned a reputation as a justice committed to a fair administration of the law, overturning a state law against sodomy and denouncing the electric chair as an inhumane form of execution.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, to U.S. Army Col. Thomas E. Sears and Onnye Jean Sears, Sears grew up in Savannah. She spent her early career as an attorney with the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird and as an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law.

She surprised many people in 2008 when she announced plans to resign from the Supreme Court and again in 2009 when she returned to private practice at Schiff Hardin. She is also the founder of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys. – MAD


A GUIDING LIGHT

ALANA SHEPHERD

Alana Shepherd is the guiding force and public face of the Shepherd Center, the private, not-for-profit hospital she and her husband Harold and son James established 40 years ago to treat and rehabilitate individuals with spinal cord injuries. When James was injured in a near-fatal bodysurfing accident in South America, he had to seek treatment in Denver. Once he returned home, the family set about filling a need in Atlanta.

The center opened in 1974 with six beds in leased space. Today it has 152 beds, including a 10-bed intensive care unit, and sits on its own five-acre campus in Atlanta; its reputation has grown along with it.

The hospital has a strong research component and has extended its mission to care for people with brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Every patient who enters the center is personally welcomed by Shepherd.

For funding, the Shepherds initially relied on the generosity of friends, colleagues and suppliers from their family construction business – the Shepherd Companies – but have undertaken several capital campaigns, including the current one with a goal of $12.5 million for expansion and upgrades. Shepherd has been a major force in all the fundraising.

Says Dr. David Apple, medical director emeritus of the center, “Alana has led the way. People she knows just can’t say no to her when she asks.” – SP


ENVIRONMENTAL EVANGELIST

TED TURNER

Ted Turner changed television when he created the Cable News Network, the first-ever 24-hour news operation; he made his mark in professional sports when he purchased the Atlanta Braves, which in 1995 won their only World Series as an Atlanta team under his ownership. He also won the America’s Cup in 1977 and accumulated vast amounts of acreage to raise bison. He made a lot of money and lost about $8 billion of it after he sold his media empire to Time-Warner, which then entered into a disastrous deal with AOL.

Earlier this year, he joked with a gathering of the Buckhead Coalition that “if you’re careful, you can get by on a billion dollars.”

Most of his work these days is in the realm of philanthropy, particularly environmental causes. He pledged $1 billion to the United Nations Foundation he established. He founded The Turner Foundation Inc. to support conservation efforts and the Captain Planet Foundation, which works to educate children about their communities.

He was a risk-taker during his early business career but says his philanthropic decisions are more conservative. He is not above goading other rich people to share their wealth.

Larger than life, he has a pulpit and doesn’t hesitate to use it. The global climate change issue, he says, “is just one manifestation of over-population and overuse of the resources on the planet.” – SP


ETHICAL LEADERSHIP

ANDREW YOUNG

Atlanta’s own Andrew Young is an internationally respected political, social justice, human rights and civil rights leader. Most notably, he was a member of Congress, mayor of Atlanta and was the first African American to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1981, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2003, he founded the Andrew Young Foundation to promote more just and propserous communities around the world.

Young’s civil rights activities began with his participation in voter registration drives with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he became executive director, often working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Young participated in desegregation efforts, including at least one otherwise peaceful march in which marchers were attacked by police dogs. He helped draw up the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was with King in Memphis, Tenn., the day King was assassinated. In 1972, Young became the first African American since Reconstruction to be elected to Congress from Georgia. He was reelected twice to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

From 1982 to 1990, he served two terms as the 55th mayor of Atlanta, a time when the city’s population and economy exploded. During those eight years, he helped attract 1,100 companies, a million jobs and $70 billion in new investment to the Atlanta area.

“Maynard [Jackson] built the airport, and I filled it,” Young told Georgia Trend in 2012, when he was named a Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society. “Business had been leaving the city, but we reversed that trend.”

He also played a part in convincing the world that Atlanta could host the 1996 Olympics, serving as co-chair of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. – EB

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