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50 Meetings in 50 Days: The Annual Meeting from 1991 to 1994

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.

1991 Annual Meeting

When: November 13-15, 1991
Where: The Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida
Theme: What's New Under the Sun?
Notable Speakers: William Ferris (Director, Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi and Co-Editor, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture), Josephine Humphreys (Author)

William Ferris led the Center for the Study of Southern Culture for 20 years beginning in 1978 and ending in 1998, when President Clinton appointed him to lead the National Endowment for the Humanities. His scholarship had focused on African American folklore and culture and undoubtedly contributed to The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, which he co-edited and was released in 1989. To this day, he is seen as an expert on the region. His most recent book, published in 2016, was The South in Color: A Visual Journal, and his photography has been featured in the Smithsonian.

Josephine Humphreys is the author of several novels set in her native Charleston, South Carolina, including "Dreams of Sleep," "Rich in Love" – which was made into a movie in 1992 – and "The Fireman's Fair."

1992 Annual Meeting

When: November 11-13, 1992
Where: The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia
Theme: Finding Common Ground
Notable Speakers: Harold Hodgkinson (Institute for Educational Leadership), Marian Wright Edelman (Children's Defense Fund)

Harold Hodgkinson's appearance at the Annual Meeting would mark the start of a trend that has continued ever since – a strong interest from SECF members in the changing demographics of the region. Hodgkinson ran the Institute for Educational Leadership's Center for Demographic Policy. His seminal report, All One System: Demographics of Education, Kindergarten through Graduate School, correctly predicted an increasingly diverse student population at all levels, a development he believed would result in "adding the high level of energy and creativity that has always been characteristic of groups who are making their way in America."

Marian Wright Edelman had already been leading the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), which she founded, for nearly 20 years when she spoke to Annual Meeting attendees. Edelman is the first woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar and worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. CDF has been a champion for many policies and programs that are now embedded within the social safety net, including Head Start and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Edelman remains a leader at CDF, where last November she transitioned to the office of President Emerita in the Office of the Founder.

1993 Annual Meeting

When: November 10-12, 1993
Where: Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, Louisiana
Theme: Shall We Gather at the River and All That Jazz
Notable Speakers: Henry Hampton (Filmmaker), Dee Davis (Appalshop), Robert Theobald (Author, Economist and Futurist)

All three of the speakers mentioned above spoke at a keynote session titled Old Images, New Visions: Reinventing the South.

Henry Hampton had participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery marches during the Civil Rights Movement – the images of police using firehoses and dogs to repel peaceful marchers helped turn the tide of public opinion in favor of expanded civil rights for African Americans. The power of those images inspired Hampton to found Blackside, a film production company that would in 1987 produce the documentary Eyes on the Prize. It and its sequel, which both received the Peabody Award, are still considered the definitive documentaries of the Civil Rights Movement.

At the time of the 1993 Annual Meeting, Dee Davis was executive producer for Appalshop, which created more than 50 public TV documentaries, established a media training program for Appalachian youth, and launched initiatives that use media as a strategic tool in organization and development. Dee would go on to establish the Center for Rural Strategies, where he still serves as president.

Robert Theobald would be the first of several futurists to speak at the Annual Meeting. He was known for the ideas behind what would be called the Triple Revolution – the three revolutions were increasing automation, the rise of mutually assured destruction in the event of nuclear war, and the human rights evolution. The first of those revolutions, which Theobald called the cybernation revolution, indicated that increased use of computers, machines and robotics would boost production capacity while simultaneously producing high levels of unemployment – a possible future that continues to concern economists and futurists today.

1994 Annual Meeting

When: November 9-11, 1994
Where: Omni Charlotte Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina
Theme: Getting Down to Business
Notable Speakers: Rushworth Kidder (Founder and President, Institute for Global Ethics)

The 25th Annual Meeting was the first to feature something that remains a fixture to this day – the Annual Meeting Marketplace, where vendors connect with members to discuss services and products. The Marketplace, according to the 1994 program, included "demonstrations of the newest grantmaking and donor-tracking software," reflecting the increased use of computers and other technology within philanthropy.

This meeting also featured a two-day Inclusive Practices Regional Workshop for community foundations, marking the first time the Annual Meeting would spotlight inclusion as a value for foundations to uphold. As the years have gone on, diversity, equity and inclusion have emerged as areas of strong interest for SECF members and the field overall.

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


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