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50 Meetings in 50 Days: The Annual Meeting from 1976 to 1978

Registration for SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting will open May 15 – between now and then, we’re going to take a look back at the history of SECF’s signature event and how it’s evolved over the years.

Heading into the late 1970s, the Annual Meeting fell into a consistent rhythm, hitting new states and cities while also providing time for discussion of the economic climate, investment strategies, and a range of programmatic concerns – many of which remain deeply relevant today.

1976 Annual Meeting

When: October 20-22, 1976
Where: Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia
Notable Speakers: McGeorge Bundy (President, The Ford Foundation), Dr. Ray Marshall (Professor of Economics, University of Texas, and president of the National Rural Center)

If our records are correct, Dr. Ray Marshall is the oldest living Annual Meeting keynote/plenary speaker – 90 years old today, he is a professor emeritus at the University of Texas. He spoke at the meeting's closing luncheon, and was only a year away from being appointed Secretary of Labor in the Carter administration. Marshall's National Rural Center had just been founded – it was described by The Washington Post as "a nonprofit research organization with a $750,000 annual budget that he founded [to] focus national attention on rural problems."

Marshall knew the South well. As The Post wrote: 

Despite an easygoing charm, Marshall is neither an amiable rustic nor Texas-stereotype swashbuckler. He is very much in the mold of Carter: cool, self-confident, impatient with ideological musings that don't produce results and "very consciouse of where he came from," as an old friend noted recently.

The son of a Louisiana tenant farmer, Marshall spent most of his formative years in a Mississippi Baptist orphanage, an experience that friends say helped him develop self-reliance, respect for what he call "real work as opposed to make-work empathy for the underdog and racial tolerance."

1977 Annual Meeting

When: November 2-4, 1077
Where: De Soto Hilton Hotel, Savannah, Georgia
Notable Speakers: Former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon

Sessions at this meeting included topics like "Philanthropy's Changing Role in the Health Field," "Establishing Foundation Philosophy and Policies," and two sessions aimed at foundation trustees.

1978 Annual Meeting

When: October 25-27, 1978
Where: The Royal Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
Notable Speakers: Anne Hoblitzelle (Assistant Director, Edward W. Hazen Foundation), Roger Kennedy (Vice President - Arts, Ford Foundation)

Anne Hoblitzelle appears to be the first woman to be a featured speaker (i.e. on stage by herself, not as part of a panel). Some of the topics explored this year included secondary education, education for the gifted and historic restoration. SECF can also be seen looking ahead at its own future – Board chair John Griffin, of the Southern Education Foundation, moderated a session called What the Southeastern Council of Foundations is Doing For You, and What's Anticipated.

This is also the first evidence we have of an Annual Meeting being marketed in advance – a promotional brochure provided information on registration ($125), accommodations, transportation, restaurants and "arrangements for spouses." Check out the cover:

David Miller is SECF's director of marketing and communications.


Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Mission: The Southeastern Council of Foundations serves, connects, strengthens and champions philanthropy and philanthropic infrastructure in the South.