Will Ratliff (AL, '89) appointed to Board of Councilors at The Carter Center

The Carter Center, a not-for-profit organization advancing peace and health worldwide, has appointed 21 new members to its Board of Councilors, bringing total membership to 211.

The Board of Councilors is a leadership advisory group that promotes understanding of The Carter Center and its activities among opinion leaders and the broader community. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and staff members give updates about the Center’s activities to board members throughout the year.

"Our Board of Councilors creates an intimate link between The Carter Center, the city of Atlanta, and the state of Georgia by helping us to promote the work and mission of the Center in their communities," President Carter said.

Since its founding in 1987, the Board of Councilors has been led by some of Atlanta's most distinguished civic leaders, including its current chair, Shan Cooper, chief transformation officer, WestRock Company.

Following are the new councilors:

Dr. Raphael Bostic, president and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Julie Haley, CEO & co-founder, Edge Solutions
Philip E. Holladay, Jr., partner, King & Spalding
Lynne Homrich, founding executive chairwoman & CEO, League of Change Institute
Sue Kolloru Barger, partner and managing director, Boston Consulting Group
Craig Lesser, managing partner, Pendleton Group
Daniel McMorrow, general manager, D-Mac Industries
Bartow Morgan, Jr., chief executive officer, Brand Group Holdings
Richard Novack, president and general manager, MidSouth Market, Cigna
Helen Smith Price, vice president of global community affairs, The Coca-Cola Company
William T. Ratliff III, CEO, Collateral Companies
Matt Richburg, Ph.D., managing partner, Ampersand Leadership Group
E. Hearst Roane, Esq.
Caroline Scott Talley, senior counsel, Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs
Bernard Taylor, Sr., partner, Alston & Bird
Paul E. Viera, Jr., CEO and partner, EARNEST Partners
Jeff Williams, managing partner, US Strategic Capital Venture Fund
Rocky Williform, founder and CEO, MixP3 Corporation
Jim Winestock, senior vice president (retired), United Parcel Service
John C. Yates, partner, Morris, Manning & Martin
Cynthia Hardy Young, CEO & founder, Pivot Global Partners

15 Minutes with Sean Hartness (SC, '99)

Sean P. Hartness is actively involved in real estate development in Greenville and Charleston. Mr. Hartness earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1992 from the University of South Carolina. He is an active pilot and aviation enthusiast.

After a 20-plus year career in packaging with Hartness International, he founded Hartness Development in Greenville and was part of the leadership team that established King and Society, a full-service real estate firm in Charleston. Since making this career move, he led efforts to develop the Homestead at Hartness, a 140-homes for lease innovative development in Greenville.

Currently, he is a board member of Furman University, Board of Visitors; Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Greenville County Museum of Art and Triple Tree Aerodrome. He is a past board member of the Peace Center for Performing Arts and the Community Foundation of Greenville Inc.

He is active with the Society of International Business Fellows and attends First Baptist Greenville.

1.) How long has your family been a part of the Greenville community?

My grandfather moved to Greenville from North Carolina in the early years of WWII to start a Pepsi franchise in the Upstate.

2) Who originally purchased the property now being developed?

My father, Thomas P. Hartness, began to purchase property in the late 1970s. Back then, the land was considered to be far outside of Greenville. My family built a home there in 1980. Hartness International began purchasing adjacent property in the mid-1980s and relocated their HQ on the property in 1986. So, the land has been in our family for over 40 years.


Nancy Peterson Hearn (TN, '91) named to The Conservancy Board

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Nancy Peterson Hearn (TN, '91)  has been elected to the Board of Directors of The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, a nonprofit organization in Nashville, Tennessee, whose mission is to preserve, enhance and share the Parthenon and the park so that all future generations may benefit from these enriching cultural and educational landmarks. A nationally recognized business entrepreneur, Nancy Peterson Hearn is chairman and chief executive officer of Peterson Tool Company, Inc. Under her leadership, the company has made exponential gains in sales, production , and reputation, and is ranked among the world’s premier designers and manufacturers of custom insert tooling. Peterson Tool received ISO 9001 certification and has earned numerous quality and certification awards including General Motors’ Targets for Excellence Award and Caterpillar’s coveted Certified Supplier of Quality Materials Award.  An active member of SIBF, Nancy also serves on the Aquinas College Board of Governors and the Mississippi University for Women’s National Board of Distinguished Women.

Jimmy and Dee Haslam (OH, '09) are committed to making an impact in Cleveland

The Browns have agreed to pledge more money than originally expected to cover the cost of the installation of two new synthetic turf football fields to Cleveland city schools, according to Cleveland.com.

Last year, the Browns announced that they would install turf fields at five high schools for an estimated cost of between $2 and $2.5 million. According to Cleveland.com, that work has already been done at three city fields -at Roye Kidd Stadium for John F. Kennedy High School, Bump Taylor Field near Glenville High School and the field at James F. Rhodes High School.

But two schools – John Adams and John Marshall – need more work than expected. That’s where the Browns and owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam stepped in, agreeing to cover those costs according to school district CEO Eric Gordon. The Browns told Cleveland.com the combined amount for the two schools will be about $500,000.

With the new work and the addition of scoreboards, the total is expected to be around $3.5 million. The five schools had to play the bulk of their games in other parts of the city or on the road last season.

“The entire Browns organization and Dee and Jimmy Haslam are committed to making an impact in Cleveland,” Jenner Tekancic, a spokesperson for the team, told Cleveland.com. “By providing five high-quality synthetic turf fields, this project will help provide quality opportunities for youth football and other community activities, as well as an additional learning space outside of the classroom and help encourage school attendance and participation.”

Tekancic added: “It was important to our team that we ensured these educational resources were available to CMSD and its students this fall.”

USA Today

Leigh Shockey (TN, '09) elected President for 59th AutoZone Liberty Bowl

The 59th AutoZone Liberty Bowl has named its president. Leigh Shockey, chairman and CEO of Drexel Chemical Co., was elected president of the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Festival Assoc. 

“Leigh has been a strong supporter and advocate of the Bowl and all our activities for many years,” said Steve Ehrhart, executive director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, in a release. “We’re excited about the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication Leigh brings to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.”

The game will pair the Big 12 against the SEC. The game date is still to be determined.

In addition to Shockey’s appointment, the following people were also named 2017 officers: Scott Barber, chairman; Bill Kinkade, vice president; Bill Giles, secretary; Chris Moore, treasurer.

“One of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s key missions is to showcase Memphis to the rest of the world through the various year-round community events conducted by the association,” said Shockey in a release. “I’m proud to serve as president this year, as our events shine a positive light on Memphis and create community pride for local citizens. In addition, we will continue to share the life-saving message of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through our events during the year.”

Memphis Business Journal

Mark Kaiser (GA, '01) Shares How Corporate Innovators Can Manage Startup Relationships

Name: Mark Kaiser
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: Venadar
Total Corporate Innovation Experience: 15 years
LinkedIn: Mark Kaiser

Startups and corporate innovators often have a tenuous relationship. While enterprise leaders fear the disruptive threat of innovative startups, the nimble nature of a startup offers massive opportunity for forward-thinking innovators. Sometimes the most impactful way to solve a problem facing an enterprise business is to find an external agency or startup partner already solving that problem on a smaller scale.

It is sometimes overlooked that a primary responsibility of corporate innovators is to discover and partner with emerging startups, and also to make recommendations on investment and acquisition. finding startups that meet corporate criteria – whether that be in size, scope, scale, or staff – that can help meet corporate innovation objectives is not always easy. That’s where the help of corporate venturing firms like Venadar come in.

We recently spoke with Mark Kaiser, Venadar’s founder & CEO, about how corporations have changed their M&A priorities; where startups sit within the corporate innovation spectrum, and to solicit advice for intrapreneurs struggling to secure buy-in on a startup engagement strategy.


What prompted you to start a corporate venturing firm in 2005?

Prior to Venadar, I served in four other executive positions, including several times in the CEO role, so I became painfully aware of the constant pressure to drive growth. In the early 2000s, I became curious as to why, outside of a few IT partnerships, my organization didn’t seek or maintain working relationships with any startups or entrepreneurs. The more I thought about it, the more of a good idea I thought it was to engage with startups. That’s when I decided to start Venadar – to help connect corporations with startups that could move business priorities forward faster than they were equipped to do.


In the 12 years since, what have been the biggest changes in how corporations determine where, when and why to invest in startups? 

Until about five years ago, organizations put a lot of effort toward learning and understanding technology. There was genuine interest in disruptive tech, but unfortunately, IT, C-Suite and even business units had a bias towards startup innovation. In plain terms – they didn’t want to acknowledge that the startup might be creating something that the organization didn’t have the resources, skills or time to do.

Since about 2011 or 2012, Fortune 500s, in particular, began to view the  acquisition of startups as a means to drive growth. As such, some of the biggest brands in the world extended their reach through M&A in ways once never imagined. For example, Tyson’s Foods acquired its way into having an entire division dedicated to proteins other than chicken. Hershey’s acquired jerky maker Krave with an explicit mandate to transform the $30 million brand into a $500 million brand.

The prioritization of growth via M&A is not all that’s changed. As we all know, the modern consumer and customer now demand products and services expeditiously. And if it’s not working, we demand a pivot. But typical corporate R&D is very slow, sometimes taking years from design thinking to implementation. Consumers don’t have patience for such slow innovation anymore. With this reality, corporations took notice of people flocking to startups for speed and convenience, so they knew it was time to act or risk losing market share and revenue, potentially for good.

Leroy Nix (AL, '15) APPOINTED to Montevallo Board of Trustees

The Alabama Legislature recently confirmed the appointment of Leroy Nix to the University of Montevallo Board of Trustees.

Nix, the manager of corporate and constituent affairs at Alabama Power’s corporate headquarters in Birmingham, promotes the company’s legislative and regulatory agenda in Alabama and Washington, D.C.

In this capacity, he works closely with elected officials, community leaders and stakeholder groups at both the state and national levels on issues related to energy and environmental policy. Nix also serves as the liaison between Alabama Power and its wholesale customers, which represent five percent of the company’s revenue.

Nix is a 2003 graduate of the University of Montevallo where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to earn his J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Birmingham Business Journal

Ambassador Abraham M. Keita to speak at SIBF Atlanta Breakfast

2016 International Children’s Peace Prize winner, Ambassador Abraham M. Keita, is currently on a 4-day visit to Atlanta, GA at the invitation of H.E.A.L (Help Educate & Assist Lives), Inc. According to a dispatch from the US, on September 7, spoke at Habitat for Humanity International Headquarters where he lobbied and gave  reasons for the building of decent houses for West Point residents; a decision HFHI is considering.

Habitat for Humanity International is world wide non-profit that builds houses for poor and disadvantaged people. Over the years, HFHI has assisted millions of people from around the world by building or proving for them what they can call ‘homes’.

West Point is currently affected by ongoing sea erosion, which has made over 6,000 residents homeless. Keita’s fight to have HFHI  come to Liberia to build new houses or improve homes for West Point residents could bring a ‘joy’ they might never forget.

Born in West Point, the Children’s Peace Prize winner has not forgotten his roots. Everywhere he goes, he continues to push the plight of West Pointers and Liberians in general. West Point, on many instances, has been hardly hit by natural disasters.

In another development, Amb. Keita will, on September 9, 2016, speak at the Society of International Business Fellows Atlanta Chapter’s breakfast to discuss the importance of supporting non-profit organizations that work with and for underprivileged children in Liberia, Africa and the world.

On the same day, he is expected to visit the prestigious Morehouse College. During his visit at the college, he will meet with administrators, faculty members, and students. Morehouse is a historical African-American University that has produced great, renowned and successful people including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ambassador Andrew Young and actor Samuel L. Jackson.


Jennifer Zeller (GA, '16) Tapped For Federal Workforce Council

Jennifer Zeller (GA, '16), manager of engineering, research and creative services in Georgia Power's Community & Economic Development department, has been selected as one of 14 individuals nationally to serve on a new federal advisory board. She is the only economic development professional on the council. The Workforce Information Advisory Council (WIAC) is mandated as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The council's directive is to consult with and provide written recommendations to the U.S. secretary of Labor on ways to use and improve nationwide workforce and labor market information systems.

"The availability of skilled labor and professional talent continues to be one of the most critical factors in site location decisions worldwide. Our goal is to maximize the value of the information collected by the U.S. government to business and to the community at large," said Zeller. "We hope to assist government agencies in understanding how workforce information is used and why it is important. At the same time, we will make recommendations on which data surveys are critical and which are less important, giving input to the U.S. Department of Labor as they make tough decisions in the face of budget cuts."

For instance, a company looking to locate a new plant may need employees with certain skills or education. Economic development organizations such as ours at Georgia Power use the Census and workforce information surveys to demonstrate that a certain city or area has the workforce to meet those needs. International and domestic companies use this information, too, in deciding where they should locate a new office. Also, by defining the type of talent available in an area, economic development organizations, either at the state or local level, can focus on attracting specific industries.

The survey results also provide financial or occupational data to corporations at large. Georgia Power uses the survey information to ensure employees are fairly and equally compensated. By reviewing salary information for similar occupations, a prospective company can verify that its pay scales are comparable. "The workforce data we provide to prospective companies helps tell the story of why Georgia is a great place for business," said Anne Kaiser, vice president of Community and Economic Development. "And that story is not about the facts and figures; it's about the people in our communities and the value they bring to the workplace. Jennifer's participation on this board will make sure the data available in the United States continues to improve, giving us an even more compelling story to share."

Zeller will represent Georgia Power and the economic development industry on the WIAC. "We on the council have several goals. We will review available data and we will educate government agencies on its importance in growing communities and attracting and retaining business. "I am honored to participate on the Advisory Council," added Zeller. "This is a huge opportunity for us to influence and shape future understanding of and budgeting for vital workforce information and to educate government on the use for the private sector and economic development."

SIBF Where in the World: Weekend in Saratoga

SIBF members and guests gathered in upstate New York recently for a one-of-a-kind program at the Saratoga Race Course. High points included a reception at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and a panel discussion on the business and traditions of thoroughbred racing with Tampa Bay Downs President Stella Thayer (FL, '95). Attendees were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oklahoma Training Track where they learned about the daily routine of trainers and horse owners. A VIP day at the races and our own featured race, the SIBF Chairman's Cup sponsored by Stewart Dansby (AL, '95), topped off this exciting experience!

"Saratoga was fabulous! There is such a rich history that is visible in the charming brick buildings on Broadway as well as the traditions around the horses and people of the town. The highlight was a day at the races watching from the comfort of our private suite as jockeys guided beautiful horses. Top notch event! Yet, the best part, as always, was the camaraderie of the SIBFers! As a new member that entered through the SIBF Leadership Academy, I am finding everyone to be extremely welcoming, and am enjoying forming friendships with the long-standing members of this group. SIBF is a wonderful network, and you get out of it what you put in. I would encourage all new members to continue to be active and find ways to support the group. There are wonderful friendships to be built, and a rich SIBF tradition of our own to carry forward."  - Bobby Henebry (GA, '15)

Cambridge Money & Responsibility 2016: Day Five


Today was another jam-packed day in Cambridge! We started off with a lecture on engaging in philanthropy to generate value in the community. After a short coffee break, we looked at a few neuroscience studies that shed light on whether or not we are as conscious of our decision making as we believe to be. Following a pleasant lunch, we spoke about big data and sequencing the human genome. Our final lecture of the day brought home the importance of storytelling and fiction, even for the lives of future professionals.
In the afternoon, our group went punting—we boarded wooden skiffs that we even got a chance to pole along the small river that runs through Cambridge. Then the whole group enjoyed a delicious meal at St. John’s Chophouse. We settled on the lawns of St. John’s college to digest our food as we watched Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The play wrapped up another varied and interesting day with SIBF.

-Shaun Majumdar, son of Rajjina Singh and Sareet Majumdar (FL, '12)

Cambridge Money & Responsibility 2016: Day Four


On Wednesday we started the day off with budgets, taxes and inflation. This was one of my favorite talks because it relates to anyone if they want to be involved in finances as a career or not, because they're life skills that aren't taught at school. We then listened about human trafficking which exposed me to the unfortunate tragedies that I don't have to experience every day because my parent's decided to come to America. We ended the lectures with one about neurons and this was by far my favorite "off topic" lecture. Dr. Coles told us that our brain makes decisions and then alerts our conscious. Which really made us think about if we're really making our decisions! He also explained that our conscious is active in the learning part of doing something, but after that your brain goes into autopilot. This blew my mind because it relates to neural networks in machine learning, and the day to day things I do all the time like driving. I ended the day with my friends I made on this trip and we explored the town of Cambridge!

- Ozair Patel, son of Maqbool and Tanveer Patel (AL, '11)

Cambridge Money & Responsibility 2016: Day Three

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Our day started with a historical tour of Madingley Hall and their gardens, which was led by the head gardener. We learned a lot about their various trees, plants and flowers. One other thing we learned that was particularly interesting was that Cambridge University bought the whole plot of land including the gardens, hall, farmland and a few houses for only 50,000 pounds in 1948 due to recession. We then attended 3 lectures: Dr. Jerry Toner taught us the history of Rome and how we can learn to manage risk from early Romans. Nick Hoffman taught us how to manage credit cards and debt responsibly. Lastly, we attended a lecture by Cambridge University Professor Patricia Fara about the ideas behind her book titled "The 4000 Year History of Science". We ended the day on a high note with an intense but really fun croquet tournament on Madingley Hall's game pitch.

- Joe Hovanec, son of Teri and Jeff Hovanec (MN, '10)

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Cambridge Money & Responsibility 2016: Day Two

It was an exciting first day for all of the students attending the 2016 Money and Responsibility course at Cambridge University. Nick Hoffman opened the course with a lecture on the mathematics of money followed by facts about the power of compounding. The next lecture was from Dr. Jerry Toner who gave some brilliant advice on the ethics of how we should use our money. The final lecture was given by Nigel Wardle, who discussed his ideas about entrepreneurialism and how with failure one can still breed success. Following the lecture, all of the students gathered for our double-decker bus tour which took us to the only WWII American burial ground in England. This has already been an amazing time and we are all starting to connect as a group!

- Mills Poynor, son of Kim and Ham Poynor (AL, '15)

Cambridge Money & Responsibility 2016: Day One

On Sunday morning we arrived in Cambridge and met our fellow SIBF participants and instructors. We have taken in informative lectures on finance, entrepreneurship, the history of science, and more. Outside of the classroom thus far, we have toured the city of Cambridge, visited the American cemetery, and played croquet at Madingley Hall among other activities. We are looking forward to the rest of the week before departing Saturday afternoon.

- Drew and Josh Simons, sons of Patrice and Bob Simons (GA, '15)

Browns owners Jimmy & Dee Haslam (OH, '09) focused on adding 'high-character' talent

For the past two years, the Cleveland Browns have been plagued by players making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and those issues were accompanied by 22 losses, including 18 setbacks in their last 21 games.

As such, Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam made changes to the coaching staff and in the player personnel department in an effort to change a culture of an organization with just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance since returning to the NFL in 1999.

In order to make the culture shift necessary to compete in the AFC North Division, the Browns felt the need to change the type of players they sought to add to the roster. And with their 14 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns not only added productive college players, but also, athletes who they believe could represent the organization in a positive manner.

“It’s an important, really central aspect of what we’re going to build here,” said Sashi Brown, the Browns’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “We want guys who are passionate about football, but also, good citizens, good members of the Cleveland community and good teammates. Emmanuel (Ogbah) and Corey (Coleman) both are that.

“They’re hyper-competitive guys who aren’t afraid to be coached hard and want to get better and be great. I know you all picked that up as a theme, and Emmanuel is no different. Both of these guys are loved by their coaches. We expect them to come in day one and compete, but also, be great teammates even before they get on campus. I know a couple of the guys have already reached out to both players.”

According to first-year coach Hue Jackson, the Browns dug deep into the players’ backgrounds through the pre-draft process in order to make the best decisions possible for a team that has just six first-round picks from the last 10 years still on the roster.


Randy Hanna (FL, '09) named interim dean of FSU's Panama City campus

Randy Hanna (FL, '09), a prominent Tallahassee attorney and former chancellor of the Florida College System, was named interim dean Monday of Florida State University’s Panama City campus. Hanna, 58, serves as a research faculty member at the FSU’s Learning Systems Institute and  teaches graduate-level courses. He begins Aug. 1. He replaces Carol D. Edwards, who was named dean of the campus and its College of Applied Studies last August. Edwards will become a faculty member of the FSU College of Fine Arts.

“Randy Hanna is a dynamic and respected leader in Florida higher education,” Sally McRorie, FSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said in a release. “His invaluable experience leading the state’s largest system of higher education will dramatically benefit FSU Panama City.” Hanna, an attorney with Bryant Miller Olive, teaches graduate courses in the FSU College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. At the Learning Systems Institute, Hanna co-directs a program that provides educational opportunities to academic professionals and governmental officials who are developing higher education programs in India, Ukraine and Central America.


Scribe Software Honors 2016 Partner of the Year Award Winner Tribridge

Scribe Software, a global data integration leader, today announced the winners of the 2016 Scribe Partner of the Year Awards for the North America and Asia/Pacific regions. The annual awards honor Scribe Software partners that have delivered innovative integration solutions as well as generating the greatest bookings and bookings growth for Scribe's cloud-based and on-premises integration platforms. Five organizations and one MVP were honored at the awards ceremony held on July 12th.

"Data integration is critically important to today's CIOs who are tasked with improving their company's analytic capabilities while data becomes much more distributed in both cloud-based and on-premises applications," said Lou Antonucci, Vice President of Sales at Scribe Software. "Our partners bring the industry, process, and solution knowledge that those CIOs need to move data wherever and whenever it's needed and for that our partners are extremely deserving of our recognition and thanks. Together with our partners we aim to accelerate data integration projects and reduce the time, cost, and risk of those projects. We look forward to growing these already strong partnerships and to many more years of shared success."

Scribe Software partners are key to Scribe's ability to service its customers, which number more than 12,000 worldwide. Scribe Software's partner program provides opportunities for system integrators, VARs, and SaaS providers to capitalize on the growing demand for cloud-based and on-premises data integration services. See what some of Scribe's partners had to say:

"Our customers depend on us for innovative cloud solutions that eliminate operational roadblocks and allow them to reach their full potential," said Jeff Lynn, president of Tribridge. "More than ever, they call on us to streamline cross-functional business processes, and data integration has become an essential component of our solutions. Scribe has been an exceptional partner, providing us not only a low-risk, high-value technology solution, but also offering the technical and business support to help solve our customers' challenges."
"Reliable, fast data integration is a critical requirement as we streamline case management processes for dozens of government agencies," said Chuck Emond, principal at A Hundred Answers. "We know we have selected the right partner in Scribe because they give us a platform that helps us quickly solve the unique complexities we encounter at various government agencies with their legacy software while getting them ready for their journey to digital cloud-based services."

The winners of the 2016 Partner of the Year Awards for the North America and Asia/Pacific regions by category are:

  • Partner of the Year - Tribridge,  Jeff Lynn (FL, '15), President
  • Top Scribe Online Partner - Altriva, LLC
  • Best New Partner - Accenture, Japan Limited
  • Rising Star Partner - A Hundred Answers, Inc. 
  • Innovator Award - Armanino, LLP
  • MVP of the Year - Anil Shah, CloudFronts Technologies

CELA Program in Istanbul Moves Ahead Despite Coup Attempt

Even after a turbulent weekend in Turkey that included a failed coup attempt and the resulting arrest of thousands of troops and judges, a professional development program started by Atlantans near Istanbul went forward basically as if the uprising hadn’t occurred. 

The Society of International Business Fellows helped found the Central Eurasian Leadership Alliance (CELA) 12 years ago to help promising professionals from former Soviet republics throughout the region enhance their business acumen, make lasting connections and forge new ways of dealing with life’s challenges. 

Each year, they convene at Koc University, an influential institution situated on a forested hillside about an hour’s drive outside the megacity of 15 million people. While it’s held in Turkey, none of the participants are Turkish — instead they hail from places in the Caucasus like Georgia or Azerbaijan, or from countries in Central Asia, like Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan. 


This year, the start of the program came three weeks after a terrorist attack killed 41 at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. The first day of mentoring sessions and workshops was scheduled on July 16, as the country awoke to a state of turmoil in which its elected leaders had consolidated power. Luckily, things went ahead without interruption, says retired telecom executive and private equity investor Meade Sutterfield (GA, '97), who helped underwrite the CELA program with the East West Institute in 2002. 

Some participants faced hiccups in their travel arrangements, but only two decided not to come over security concerns, he said. The annual program has averaged about 35 participants in years past. “Our program is at Koc University in Sariyer, which has used its considerable resources to help us and is far from downtown Istanbul in a secluded and safe environment,” Mr. Sutterfield wrote in an email to Global Atlanta. 

He noted that on the day after the coup attempt, recently retired Coca-Cola International President Ahmet Bozer, a Georgia State University alum and a Turkish native, spoke to the group. Ultimately, the fact that the program wasn’t disrupted shows that despite the images of uproarious crowds in Istanbul and bombed-out government buildings in Ankara, Turkey is a large country where the reality on the ground can be hard to ascertain. 

Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport is back open and a ban on flights to and from Turkey by the Federal Aviation Administration has been lifted, meaning that the mostly American facilitators who mentor the younger participants will likely be able to get home without much incident. Mr. Sutterfield said it’s business as usual in the meantime. “I can’t comment on the situation here in Turkey as we have not been outside the campus; we started this morning at 8:30 a.m. and tonight went until 9 p.m.”