Firm Foundations

Three Emory alumni play key roles in the philanthropic community

By John D. Thomas
In 1914, Frederick Goff, a Cleveland, Ohio, banker and lawyer, founded a collective community fund that would take donations and use its assets to aid the city's needy charities. The fund was designed to handle gifts that were not large enough on their own to create private philanthropic foundations. "If you have $200,000, or $500,000, or even a million dollars, it makes no sense to set up your own private foundation," says Alicia Philipp, who earned her bachelor's degree in political science from Emory in 1975. "So how do you encourage philanthropy among people who have those assets? . . . [To do that, Goff] created this concept of an umbrella [fund] as a way of pooling assets."

In 1951, several Atlanta bankers came together and formed the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Foundation Inc. (MACF), which was modeled after Goff's philanthropic concept. Philipp, who also holds an MBA from Georgia State University, has been MACF's executive director since 1977. "We have more than two hundred and fifty funds that individuals or corporations have established," she says. "It's money from lots of different sources. It's like a pool of philanthropy for the community."

Philipp is not the only Emory graduate who heads a foundation. Several floors above her office in the Hurt Building in downtown Atlanta, Charles H. "Pete" McTier, who earned his undergraduate degree in business from Emory in 1961, serves as president of four foundations: the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. And just across the street in the Trust Company Tower, 1970 Emory College graduate John W. Stephenson works as executive director of the J. Bulow Campbell Foundation.

When Alicia Philipp joined the MACF in 1977, the future of the foundation was uncertain. "At the time, they didn't know what to do with the foundation," she says. "It hadn't grown. They had about $4 million, and they were actually thinking about disbanding it, paying out the assets, and just giving up on having a community foundation. I convinced them that I would work very cheap, and I began working at exactly the right moment. The tax laws changed, and . . . we had a great legal counsel. Everything just took off. It was perfect timing." Today the MACF has assets in excess of $160 million and last year awarded grants totaling some $17 million.

"Orchestra leader" is the way Philipp describes her position at the foundation. "I have all these very talented people [working here] and I see my role as the big picture--What are we going to do next? It's the visioning piece. How does all this work together so that we really do help non-profit organizations and help donors and act as a bridge between the two? My job is to pull [all the pieces] together."

According to Philipp, the MACF rests at the lower end of the philanthropic continuum, giving out a large number of comparatively smaller grants to some of the city's smaller non-profit institutions. She says because of that dynamic, the foundation has "a unique ability to be able to look at some issues in their early stages. Take AIDS for example. We were the first private giver to AIDS in Atlanta, and we could take that risk. Now we do our grant-making around AIDS in collaboration with the United Way. But in the early days of AIDS the United Way couldn't do it. It was going to hurt their campaign. Somebody had to start out doing it, and we were fortunate enough to get a national challenge grant. I would say that we have done that in a number of different areas. In our neighborhood small grants program, the kind of grants we're making are high-risk, but they're showing that it can work."

Whereas the MACF is designed in part to help programs get started, the J. Bulow Campbell Foundation directs most of its grants toward larger projects. "Most of our grants are for capital purposes, as opposed to program support," explains John Stephenson, who joined the Campbell Foundation as executive director in 1985 after having worked at Emory for more than seven years as vice president for development. Prior to that he had also been secretary of the University and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees. "Most of our grants go toward new construction, major renovation projects, or endowment or property acquisition. It is unusual for us to provide monies that will be spent in the near term on program or budget. We're usually investing in major campaigns to construct new facilities."

The Campbell Foundation was established in 1940 through the will of J. Bulow Campbell, who had been president and then chairman of the Campbell Coal Company. One friend eulogized Campbell as "God's nobleman; honest, able, courageous, constructive," and Stephenson describes him as a "quietly effective Atlanta philanthropist." The foundation was established with about $6 million, and today it has assets of approximately $185 million. In its fifty-six-year history, the foundation has disbursed more than $121 million.

"If you looked at our last ten years, our grants would be about evenly divided among human welfare organizations; privately supported education, either secondary or higher education; youth development organizations; arts and cultural organizations, primarily the Woodruff Arts Center institutions; and then the rest would be to church-related institutions with an emphasis in the Presbyterian Church and an underlying interest in Christian causes," says Stephenson, who also holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University. "Mr. Campbell was very interested in his church, Central Presbyterian Church, and he was an active lay participant in the Presbyterian Church. He was also instrumental in bringing Columbia Theological Seminary to Atlanta."

Stephenson's role in the grant-making process is relatively hands-on. After the foundation's seven trustees decide which eight or ten grant proposals to pursue each quarter, he investigates the projects. "I go to the institution, visit with the leadership, collect financial information and service statistics, tour the facilities to see how they are being maintained, and review the campaign status and the plans for the new building or whatever it is they are trying to raise money for," he says. "Then I prepare a report on each of those visits and provide that to the trustees before their next meeting. At the next meeting they make their decision."

The third director of the Campbell Foundation in fifty-six years, Stephenson describes his work as very rewarding. "The gratification for me comes in working with an institution to explore how our grant might not just help them do exactly what they have proposed to do, but might help them do something they might not have thought of doing, or take it to a different level," he says. "Almost all of our grants challenge the organization to achieve some higher level, and the most gratifying part of the work, which doesn't happen every time, is hearing one institution talk about its needs and then later hearing another institution talk about its needs, and bringing those two together and having them see if they can join forces. Again, that doesn't happen often, but when it does it's really a magic moment."

Like John Stephenson, Pete McTier worked at Emory before moving on to a position in the philanthropic community. After completing his business degree at Emory in 1961, he was an assistant administrator at Emory Hospital for two years and was then business manager in the Department of Psychiatry for three years. In 1966, he became associate director of personnel, and in 1969 he was appointed assistant to the president and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees.

Two years later, McTier would leave the University to take a position with a group of charitable foundations that dated back to 1937. That year, Atlanta businessman and philanthropist Robert W. Woodruff formed the Trebor Foundation (Trebor is Robert spelled backwards). In 1972, that foundation came into a common administrative arrangement with four other foundations: the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation, which was created in 1939 to receive the estates of Robert Woodruff's parents; and three foundations associated with the estate of Joseph B. Whitehead, one of the original bottlers of Coca-Cola--the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. (In 1979, the assets of the $105 million Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation were given to Emory, and after the death of Robert W. Woodruff in 1985, the Trebor Foundation was renamed the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation as a legacy to its founder.) According to McTier, the foundations have "broad interests in education, health, child welfare and youth programs, the elderly, cultural institutions and the arts, civic projects, economic development, and the environment. Their discretionary giving is largely limited to Georgia."

In preparation for the increased administrative duties caused by combining the foundations, McTier came on board as secretary of each in December 1971. He later became secretary/treasurer and then vice president of each foundation. In 1988, when Emory alumnus and trustee emeritus Boisfeuillet Jones retired from the position, McTier became president. He says "the philosophical core of the foundations' work is based on Robert Woodruff's deep concern for the well-being of the community in which he lived and for the advancement of the basic institutions which serve the citizens of the area. His interest in Emory is well documented." McTier describes his position as "overseeing the daily administrative activity related to managing the foundations' financial assets and to developing the grant programs to be considered by the foundations' trustees. A great deal of my time is spent with community and institutional leaders in the unending search for the most beneficial grant opportunities."

McTier also plays an active role in national and regional foundation associations and is currently chairman of the Foundation Center Board of Trustees in New York and vice chair of the Council on Foundations, based in Washington, D.C. He says he has somewhat mixed feelings about the current political climate in Washington, D.C., which says the private sector should take a greater role in funding social and cultural programs.

"Everyone should recognize that this country cannot maintain the level of expenditure in place at the federal level and maintain a healthy economy. We must exercise responsible fiscal discipline. While there is no possible way for private giving to fill the gap resulting from governmental budget reductions, we should enthusiastically support the growth of private philanthropy and its rich diversity. There should be greater incentives for the formation of major philanthropic endowments. Regrettably, current federal tax law inhibits giving to private foundations. Consequently, many of our nation's most successful contemporary entrepreneurs are not encouraged to follow the example set by Mr. Woodruff and others."

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