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Friday, April 16, 2010

Two days in Florida

Our first stop on the Presidential Destinations: South Florida tour was at the home of Barbara and Richard Garrett 70C 73L in Coral Gables on Wednesday evening, April 14. The EAA staff arrived early as usual to set up for the event. Thanks to Barbara Garrett, we had hardly anything to do except put out the name tags and greet the arriving guests.

As the program coordinator, I am usually the one who works behind the scenes with the caterers, event rentals, and other vendors to make sure everything comes together seamlessly, but not this time. Barbara coordinated absolutely every detail for the event on Wednesday evening and exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The event started around 6:30 p.m. with networking and hors d’oeuvres reception. The crowd was a great mixture consisting of alumni from the class of 1954 all the way through 2009, their guests, and even some prospective students. The food was amazing, but the highlight of the evening was President Jim Wagner’s talk on “Leading in the New Economy.”

As a new Emory staff member, this was my first opportunity to hear President Wagner speak. I found him to be dynamic and engaging. I especially found the part of how Emory addressed the economy in 2009 to be particularly interesting. Instead of “weathering the storm,” Emory saw not a storm, but a climate change.

The University did not do anything temporarily, and when layoffs became necessary, Emory consulted with the Center for Ethics about the ethics of layoffs. “You should not layoff people unless you can demonstrate to them and the people left behind that you are improving the institution, not just maintain the status quo,” Wagner said.

Our next stop was in Palm Beach for an April 15 luncheon at The Colony Hotel. Palm Beach was absolutely stunning! The audience at the luncheon included alumni as early as 2007 and as far back as 1932! Emory Williams 32C (namesake of the prestigious Emory Williams Teaching Awards) and his wife Janet were seated at the president’s table, front and center.

President Wagner’s address was equally as engaging in Palm Beach and was followed by another lively Q&A with the audience. After the luncheon, I was determined to make it to the beach to at least snap a picture. Thankfully, it was only a half a block away and made it back to the car to depart for the airport as scheduled.

My first two Presidential Destinations events were a success, although I cannot take much of the credit for our event in Coral Gables. The Garretts have definitely raised the standard on our future events and the EAA is grateful for them being such gracious hosts. This presidential trip will be a tough act to follow, but I’m always up for a challenge!

-- Michael Parker, program coordinator, alumni programs, EAA

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