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50 Meetings in 50 Days: The Annual Meeting from 1999 to 2002


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.


1999 Annual Meeting

When: November 17-19, 1999
Where: The Grove Park Inn Resort, Asheville, North Carolina
Theme: Seeking Higher Ground: Philanthropy’s New Profile in the South
Notable Speakers: Ray C. Anderson (President & CEO, Interface Carpets, Inc.)

The Annual Meeting made its first of several trips to the Asheville, North Carolina’s Grove Park Inn, quickly establishing itself as a favorite location – the meeting is set to return to the resort in 2021!

While the 1999 Annual Meeting continued the practice of constituency tracks, the parts of the agenda open to all attendees displayed a strong emphasis on the environment. Sessions on smart growth, sustainability and reducing urban sprawl were offered, and the meeting also reserved the afternoon of its second day for site visits, including one focused on the Southern Appalachian environment.

The opening keynote was delivered by Ray C. Anderson, the president and CEO of Interface Carpets and the namesake of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. Anderson was only five years removed from what he called a “spear in the chest” epiphany moment. As the foundation’s website explains:

In 1994, at the height of his success with Interface—a company he had built from a dream, grit and determination—he was challenged with a question that would define the rest of his life: "What is your company doing for the environment?" In an effort to discover the answer to that question, he read a book by Paul Hawken. The Ecology of Commerce made him aware for the first time that Interface was doing much more to harm the environment than to protect it.

This "spear in the chest" epiphany led to what Ray later called his Mid-Course Correction—the beginning of his quest to prove that sustainability was not just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do for business.

Anderson would die in 2011, leading to the establishment of the foundation that today continues to work for improving the environment and, in particular, combating the threat of climate change.


2000 Annual Meeting

When: November 8-10, 2000
Where: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Orlando, Florida
Theme: Thru the Eyes of a Child: New Perspectives on the Future of Philanthropy
Notable Speakers: Hodding Carter III (President & CEO, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)

All eyes were on Florida during the 31st Annual Meeting – and a lot of eyes at the meeting were on televisions, since it began the day after the 2000 presidential election, which would end up hinging on the outcome in the Sunshine State. In fact, SECF Director of Meeting Planning Marianne Gordon recalled that monitors were brought into the conference space so people could follow the drama – and not feel compelled to stay in their hotel rooms.

The meeting itself featured an opening keynote from Hodding Carter, who at the time was president and CEO of the Knight Foundation. Carter grew up in the Delta community of Greenville, Mississippi, the son of Hodding Carter II, who established himself as one of the South’s leading progressive journalists in the mid-20th Century. He founded the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, a family business that his namesake son would eventually run as publisher. Hodding Carter III also had a long history of involvement in Democratic Party politics, including serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in the Carter administration.


2001 Annual Meeting

When: November 7-9, 2001
Where: Beau Rivage Resort, Biloxi, Mississippi
Theme: Renewing Our Sense of Place: Philanthropy in the Changing South
Notable Speakers: Norman Pearlstine (Editor in Chief, Time magazine), Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove

The 2001 Annual Meeting took place in the shadow of the September 11 attacks less than two months earlier. Meeting organizers decided to use the opening keynote, Our Changing Sense of Place, as a time to focus on the impact of that dark day on the country and on the work of philanthropy. Featuring remarks from Time editor in chief Normal Pearlstine, the session was described as follows:

During the past weeks our experiences of shock, loss, vulnerability, and uncertainty that began on September 11 has changed our sense of place both in the South and, indeed, the world. In response, many foundations, corporations, and individuals from our region have contributed to the record amounts collected for relief efforts. Now, however, the need for grantmakers to build and strengthen all of our communities by serving as catalysts and supporters of the structures that link us to each other is more essential than ever.


2002 Annual Meeting

When: November 13-15, 2002
Where: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Theme: Hidden in Plain View: The Leadership of Southern Philanthropy
Notable Speakers: Dr. John R. Coleman (Publisher, The Black River Tribune), David Baldacci (Author)

The Annual Meeting’s second trip to The Greenbrier – and West Virginia – went beyond the typical choices in its choice of closing keynote. Author David Baldacci is mostly known for his political thrillers that routinely top the best-seller lists. One of his most famous books, Absolute Power, was made into a movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood that was screened for attendees during the second night of the meeting. Baldacci, however, is also a native of Richmond, Virginia, and has a strong history of personal philanthropy, particularly through The Wish You Well Foundation, which works to promote literacy nationwide.


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

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