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50 Meetings in 50 Days: The Annual Meeting from 1995 to 1998


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.


1995 Annual Meeting

When: November 8-10, 1995
Where: Marriott at Sawgrass Resort, Ponte Vedra, Florida
Theme: Waves of Change: The Rising Tide of Expectations
Notable Speakers: Andrew Young (former Mayor of Atlanta; Co-Chair, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games)

The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta were less than a year away when SECF members convened at Ponte Vedra, near Jacksonville in northeast Florida. Naturally, the first Olympics in the South merited remarks from one of the leaders of Atlanta’s bid, former Mayor Andrew Young. Some of Atlanta’s leading foundations played a key role in improvements to the city, particularly Centennial Olympic Park, that made it an ideal host for the Summer Games. Young would go on to establish the Andrew Young Foundation in 2003.

This meeting also shows a willingness to experiment with format, and sessions that more and more resemble today’s offerings. Following the meeting’s adjournment, family and community foundation members had the opportunity to attend separate post-conference convenings that extended into the weekend. The community foundation convening included Martin Lehfeldt, then a consultant to SECF, as a speaker. In a few years he would succeed Bob Hull as president and CEO.


1996 Annual Meeting

When: November 13-15, 1996
Where: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Theme: Go Tell It on the Mountain: Tales of Two Souths
Notable Speakers: David Dodson (Executive Vice President, MDC), Dr. Jack Shelton (Director of Programs for Rural Services and Research, University of Alabama)

In the 1990s and 2000s, West Virginia foundations were invited to be SECF members – it only made sense to host the Annual Meeting there as well, which brought the event to The Greenbrier in 1996.

This meeting also reflects the emergence of health legacy foundations in the region. The agenda featured a roundtable discussion called “So How Are Things at Your New Healthcare Foundation?” and a session called “The Changing Healthcare Picture: Issues and Trends.” Sessions focused on program-related investments and evaluation were among other options available.

The Greenbrier also allowed for a reception inside the hotel’s famous “bunker” – the facility secretly built to house Congress and allow it to keep functioning in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington. The bunker, officially called the Government Relocation Facility, was a state secret until it was exposed by the Washington Post in 1992. Since then, it has become a draw for tourists.


1997 Annual Meeting

When: November 12-14, 1997
Where: The Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee 
Theme: Promises & Possibilities: Tapping Our Region’s Greatest Assets
Notable Speakers: Shelby Foote (Author)

The 1997 meeting marked the transition from Bob Hull as president and CEO to his successor, Martin Lehfeldt.

“Reflecting on my almost 20 years, I am struck by the contrast of philanthropy with my previous life,” said Hull. “This is a non-competitive industry. Everyone really wants anyone else to succeed.”

Hull noted how the philanthropic environment had improved since his arrival in the 1970s. “Wealth has come to our region, especially to younger people,” he said. “The attitude toward philanthropy is exciting. We are paying more attention to rural areas. Technology provides an opportunity for you all to learn more from each other.”

Speaking of technology, 1997 marked the debut of SECF.org and the Internet itself was a topic at the Annual Meeting. One session, “Foundation Surfing In the Cyber Café” gave attendees “a hands-on opportunity to learn what the World Wide Web can do for your Foundation.” The meeting also included the first-ever SECF Cyber Café which, according to Interchange, “was a big hit with both veteran Internet users and first-timers.”


1998 Annual Meeting

When: November 11-13, 1998
Where: Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg, Virginia
Theme: The Next Revolution: A Declaration of Interdependence
Notable Speakers: William McDonough (Dean, School of Architecture at the University of Virginia), Richard Moe (President, National Trust for Historic Preservation)

McDonough and Moe were the speakers at this year’s opening session, “Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Revolution.” The session focused on industrial globalization and an increasingly urbanized South. McDonough, through his architecture and teaching, has been a leading advocate for sustainable design. His philosophy, known as Cradle to Cradle, “reframes design as a beneficial, regenerative force—one that seeks to create ecological footprints to delight in, not lament. It expands the definition of design quality to include positive effects on economic, ecological and social health in addition to the traditional architectural standards of commodity, firmness and delight.”

This meeting also saw some experimentation with the format – the meeting’s second day, outside of a morning plenary session, was split into tracks for various SECF constituencies. Attendees came back together that evening for a reception and dinner, and spent the meeting’s final day attending sessions open to all.


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

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