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November 27, 2000

Currey retires from BOT helm

By Michael Terrazas

Perhaps most surprising about Brad Currey, with what he’s meant to Emory over the past 20 years, is what he is not—an Emory alumnus.

“It was really remarkable, as a graduate of Princeton University and not an Emory alum, that [Currey] had such an incredible passion for this university and for striving to make it the best university in the South,” said University Secretary Gary Hauk.

Raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Currey graduated from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1951. After military service in Korea, Currey moved to Atlanta to begin a career in banking. He was president and chief operating officer of Rock-Tenn Co. in 1980, when then-President James Laney asked if he would consider taking over the Board of Trustees’ investment committee.

What made Currey accept—and accept immediately, he said, without even a night to sleep on it—was his recollection of a story one of his old Princeton professors told about the South. “He said, ‘Well, Currey, the South will always have an inferiority complex until it develops some great institutions: a great orchestra, a great university, a great library, a great museum.’

“I packed that in the back of my head,” Currey continued, and when Laney made him the offer, he unpacked it. “I thought to myself, ‘By golly, with Mr. Woodruff’s money and Jim Laney’s leadership, [the Princeton professor] might be just about right.’ This is the time for a great university in the South.”

Twenty years later, as he steps down from a six-year tenure as chair of the Board of Trustees for the institution that stands arguably the best chance of becoming—if it has not already become—that Great Southern University, how does he think everyone’s done?

“Splendidly,” Currey said. “I couldn’t be prouder of what I see out there. [Emory students] go to a great university and are very fortunate to be a part of it during its better years.”

And more than a few people on campus think more than little bit of the credit for this goes directly to Currey.

“Among Mr. Currey’s many virtues,” said President Bill Chace in listing why Currey made such a good trustee, “I would cite in particular his warmth, his loyalty, his steadfast integrity, his love of people and his dedication to the Atlanta community.”

Currey defers credit for everything accomplished during his tenure to the rest of the board and to Chace and the Emory administration. He cited the quality of people Emory has hired as one of the highlights of the last six years, along with development and implementation of the Campus Master Plan. Currey said he believes the concepts embodied in the plan have ingrained themselves into the Emory consciouness and will persist even after the people who developed them are long gone.

New BOT chair Ben Johnson knows Currey’s is a tough act to follow. “Deep humility,” Johnson said, when asked how he feels to be Currey’s successor. “It was one of Brad’s stated goals to turn Emory leadership back over to its alumni. Every major committee of the board is now chaired by an alumnus. I’m confident we will try to do our best to be good stewards of this great University we all owe so much.”

“I hope it will not sound overly sentimental to say that I have come to love Brad and [wife] Sally Currey and hope they will be my friends for the rest of my life,” said Bill Fox, vice president for Institutional Advancement, who worked with Currey to direct the Emory Campaign just before Currey was named BOT chair in 1994.

“Brad Currey took me under his wing and taught me more than I could have ever learned anywhere else,” Fox continued. “He has the ability to see the broader vision and, at the same time, not forget the details. That is a rare and genuine gift. He is a wise and a good man, and my life has been blessed by our relationship.”


Back to Emory Report Nov. 27, 2000