Member Highlight: Terri Lee Freeman

This year may mark Terri Lee Freeman's first SECF Annual Meeting, but it's a testament to her experience in the field that she'll mark the occasion as a panelist during this year's Breakfast with Champions plenary.

Terri, a trustee of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, has also distinguished herself as president of the National Civil Rights Museum, a role she's held since 2014, and as the former president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region in Washington, D.C.

"As a relative new board member of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, I was shocked that SECF would think I would add value to the panel," Terri said. "But as I realize my unusual background, I think I can bring an interesting perspective to the panel. Additionally, as issues of diversity, inclusion and equity continue to be top of mind for the funding community, I see my current role as lending some expertise on that issue."

Terri says Annual Meeting attendees will hear a new perspective at this year's Breakfast with Champions. While previous offerings of the session have brought CEOs to the stage, this year will shift the focus to the boardroom.

"As staff, we often think about things from an operational perspective, with an emphasis on ensuring that the day-to-day is accomplished with exceptional effectiveness," she said. "As board members, our role is to look at everything from the broader perspective. We have to always think long-term and think about how decisions and activities today will affect the organization tomorrow."

Trustees, Terri said, also bring into a foundation experiences from other sectors and industries that can have a positive influence.

"Board members bring to the table the comparative of other industries and how best practices from other sectors/industries might be incorporated into the funding community," she said.

While relatively new to living in the South, Terri is familiar with the region's rapidly changing demographics - she says the changes the region is experiencing can create tension, but also present an incredible opportunity for progress.

"A friend who is a demographer speaks to the top 10 trends over the next 25 years. One is ‘the South becomes new again.' He talks about the increase in population in Southern cities for a variety of reasons," Terri said. "As much as that means that people will adopt their new homes and adapt to the culture, it will also mean that there will be some cultural shifts that will be made by those newcomers and frankly out of necessity.

"As a newcomer to the South, I feel these tensions every day," she continued. "I also recognize that it is only through that tug and pull that any growth, for me, or my new home will actually occur."

Terri received her bachelor's degree in journalism/communication arts from the University of Dayton and her master's degree in organizational communications from Howard University. She is married to Dr. Bowyer G. Freeman, is the proud mother of three daughters and has two grandchildren.


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