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50 Meetings in 50 Days: The Annual Meeting from 2003 to 2006


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.


2003 Annual Meeting

When: November 12-14, 2003
Where: The Fairmont, New Orleans, Louisiana
Theme: Big But Never Easy: Philanthropy in the South
Notable Speakers: S. Frederick Starr (Author, New Orleans Unmasqued), Claire Gaudiani (Author, The Greater Good)

From his biography, S. Frederick Starr might seem like a strange choice to serve as an opening keynote for this Annual Meeting – or any of them. Starr has written or edited 20 books and hundreds of articles on Russian and Eurasian affairs. He founded the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, speaks Russian and, aside from a relatively short stint at Tulane University, had spent little time in the Southeast.

Starr, however, was also an expert on something distinctly American, Southern and from New Orleans: jazz. A jazz clarinetist himself, Staff helped establish the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble, which has performed around the world as part of its efforts to preserve jazz as it sounded in its earliest days in the Big Easy. As the band’s site notes, “Dr. Starr played the Mississippi riverboats beginning in 1957 and is the biographer of New Orleans' premier composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk.” The band remains active to this day and Starr is their primary contact for bookings.

This meeting took place less than two years before New Orleans was forever changed by Hurricane Katrina – the host hotel, The Fairmont, would be among the buildings severely damaged by the storm. Efforts to repair the hotel proved too costly. However, the building would eventually be purchased and renovated into a new hotel, The Roosevelt, and opened in 2009.


2004 Annual Meeting

When: November 10-12, 2004
Where: Charleston Place Hotel, Charleston, South Carolina
Theme: Aiming High in the Lowcountry
Notable Speakers: Former Amb. James Joseph, David Dodson (President, MDC)

This year marked a key turning point for not only the Annual Meeting, but SECF as a whole – 2004 was the first year that the organization allowed Annual Meeting sponsorships. From the start, many foundations and financial institutions were eager to lend their support to what had become the region’s premier philanthropic event.

That year’s top sponsor was a familiar name: SunTrust. Several other SECF members lent their support as well, including many based in South Carolina like The Self Family Foundation, the J. Marion Sims Foundation and The Springs Close Foundation.

A list of other sponsors that year is a reminder, however, of turbulent times ahead. BellSouth, as part of the nationwide consolidation of the telecommunications industry, would eventually be known as AT&T – ironic considering BellSouth was a direct result of the “old” AT&T being broken up in 1984. Two other sponsors, Wachovia and Washington Mutual, would see their fortunes fall as a result of the 2008 financial crisis – Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo while Washington Mutual was largely seized by the government and eventually sold to JPMorgan Chase.


2005 Annual Meeting

When: November 9-11, 2005
Where: Marco Island Marriott Resort, Marco Island, Florida
Theme: Charting our Course through Changing Currents
Notable Speakers: Dr. Donna Shalala (President, University of Miami)

The 2005 Annual Meeting came at the tail end of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season – the most active in recorded history. The effect on the meeting was visible to anyone there: due to the effects of the storms across the region, a high number of cancellations came in as the event neared and parts of the host hotel were undergoing repair following a direct hit from Hurricane Wilma. One of the overflow hotels for the meeting was rendered completely unusable.

“We had to ask as many of the members that were willing to do so to double up and share rooms, and then find smaller hotels to accommodate the rest of the members” SECF Director of Meeting Planning Marianne Gordon said. “It was the strangest sight in the world. All the plant life in the hotel pool area had been stripped of all the leaves due to the high winds.”

Two Southeastern states, Florida and Louisiana, were struck twice by major storms. Of course, the most severe was Hurricane Katrina, which caused the deaths of over 1,800 people and left a lasting impact on New Orleans. Lessons from the storm’s impact are still being learned and applied today.


2006 Annual Meeting

When: November 8-10, 2006
Where: Westin Savannah Harbor Resort, Savannah, Georgia
Theme: Southern Philanthropy: Imagine!
Notable Speakers: David Biemesderfer (President, DJB Consulting Services), Barry Gaberman (former Senior Vice President, Ford Foundation), David Dodson (President, MDC)

This year departed from the norm in a significant way – for the first time, meeting sessions were split between the host hotel and the adjacent Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. The Annual Meeting was also growing in size: Multiple overflow hotels were needed to accommodate attendees, requiring the use of ferry boats and shuttles to get attendees to where they needed to be.

By this point in its history, the Annual Meeting was very similar to what SECF offers today, with preconference sessions, site visits, environmental tours, and sessions encompassing a wide variety of topics including public policy, generational change, mission-related investments, social impact and nonprofit capacity.


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

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