SECF Member Highlight: Kristen Keely-Dinger


This profile includes excerpts from the upcoming Fall 2020 issue of SECF’s Inspiration magazine, coming out later this month!

At the outset of 2020, Kristen Keely-Dinger was excited to be on the planning team for this year’s Annual Meeting, which was returning to Music City for the first time since 1990.

It is an understatement to say much has changed since then. The Annual Meeting has pivoted to an online event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the conference isn’t coming to her hometown in Nashville, Kristen is still deeply involved in the planning – in fact, she’s now Annual Meeting Chair.

“It has been a lesson in letting go of expectations and learning how to be more adaptable,” Kristen said. “I am certain that many of us are experiencing that as we surrender knowing what the future holds and strive to make the best decisions that we can to protect the health and safety of our colleagues and partners.”

Kristen took over as Annual Meeting Chair a few months ago when the prior chair, Cabot Pyle, stepped down from his role at another Nashville foundation to move outside the region. Thankfully, her earlier experience on the planning committee allowed her to hit the ground running. Plus, this year’s vice chair, Dr. Laura Gerald, is a physician and former public health official, in addition to her current role leading the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

“It has been so important to have Dr. Gerald with her background in medicine and public health as part of the leadership team for this year’s meeting,” Kristen said. “We had no way of knowing last year that having a public health degree would be important for planning the Annual Meeting.”

Kristen took over as chair right around the time SECF was reimagining the meeting as a virtual event centered largely around the two dominant stories of 2020: the effects of COVID-19 and rising calls for racial justice. Thankfully, Kristen said, SECF’s Equity Framework provided a roadmap for reorienting the meeting agenda around these events.

“When the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery happened and the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., most of the sessions and keynotes had already started to take shape within the Equity Framework,” she said. “However, I believe that the context that we are now in has informed how those session planners are guiding their sessions and certainly the three keynote addresses will be informed by this context.”

Speaking of keynotes, Kristen says she’s most looking forward to hearing from Dr. David Williams, who will open the conference with a discussion of the social determinants of health.

“As a health legacy foundation grappling with how we most effectively work towards eliminating health disparities and advancing racial equity, I know Dr. Williams’ address will help to guide how we continue to move forward as a foundation concerned about the intersection of health and race,” she said.

Kristen says she hopes Annual Meeting attendees walk away from the event – no matter where they’re viewing it from – resolved to live out the meeting’s theme: Leading the Way.

“I hope that my colleagues turn off their computers on Friday at 3:30 – or 2:30 if you are on Nashville time – and recognize how together we can continue to lead the way in our communities even during turbulent and unsettled times,” she said.

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