by Richard J. Alley
Anyone who has traveled across the country has Kemmons Wilson and his Holiday Inn concept to thank for a good night’s sleep. And if you were to look at the boardroom rosters of many nonprofits across Memphis today, odds are you’ll see the name Wilson listed there.
Just as the Kemmons Wilson Companies, with its global reach, has remained firmly entrenched in Memphis, the children of Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson have kept their hearts and interests close to home.
A look at the 2015 annual report of the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation — its guiding principles include engaging family, faithful stewardship, and building legacy — shows that gifts were bestowed on West Cancer Center ($500,000), Shelby Farms Park Conservancy ($250,000), Exchange Family Club Center ($20,000 over two years), and Teach for America ($150,000 over three years), among many others. A total just shy of $1.8 million saw its way into the coffers of some of the area’s most solicitous institutions.
Letter from the Editor
by Richard J. Alley
I’m writing this letter right on deadline, just as we’re preparing to send the pages off to the printer. I had a letter ready to go, but it went out the window, flew away sometime around midnight last night as the presidential election results began to shine a light into a darkened corner of the electorate’s psyche that I never would have guessed was there. This morning confirmed what I’d hoped was just a bad dream.
by Frank Murtaugh
Gina Sweat and one of her heroes, Larry Bird, share two distinct foundational qualities: They each grew up in a small town (Sweat in Middleton, Tennessee; Bird in French Lick, Indiana) and they each played basketball. Sweat’s career on the hardwood ended after her college days at Freed-Hardeman, but you’d have a compelling debate in measuring which career was less likely. Bird, you probably know, became a Hall of Fame forward for the Boston Celtics. Sweat became — just last January — the first female Director of Fire Services in the history of the Memphis Fire Department.
“Over the last few months, I’ve been asked how I got here a lot,” says Sweat. “Looking back, it almost seems purposeful. But I wasn’t focused [on reaching this office].”
Sweat spent her childhood days in and around her parents’ grocery and bait shop. Her mother was only 18 when Gina was born, and she gained a sister after her 10th birthday. So in some respects, Sweat had a peer leader in her own mom and an important leadership role to play for her only sibling. “Growing up,” says Sweat, “my mom was one of my best friends, and she is to this day.”
by David S. Waddell
You may recall from your freshman economics class that GDP = C + I + G + NE. Translation: A nation’s economic output equals consumption + capital investment + government spending + exports – imports. To grow an economy you must grow consumption, capital investment, government spending, and net exports in some proportion. However, when assessing a nation’s growth capability this equation overcomplicates things. More simply, we can combine a nation’s labor force growth rate with the productivity growth rate of that labor force. Therefore, to project a nation’s GDP path we only need some demographic data and some productivity projections.
by Jon W. Sparks
innovation: TS23, an antibody that inhibits the molecule regulating clot dissolution as a better therapy to dissolve thrombi, which cause strokes and acute cardiovascular disease.
Few things are as difficult for a doctor as being unable to save a patient.
“That was one of the most profound things that happened to me in my training,” says Dr. Guy Reed, a cardiologist, the Lemuel Diggs Professor of Medicine, and Chair of the Department of Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “A patient came in and developed weakness on one side of the body, an indication of a stroke. We gave the best care we could at the time, but he died within 24 hours.”
Reed knew there wasn’t enough understanding of the causes of ischemic stroke and that there wasn’t a safe enough treatment for it. But rather than staying frustrated, he got to work looking for a solution.
For several years now, he’s been looking for a better therapy to dissolve blood clots, which cause most strokes. The result is TS23, a blood clot dissolving agent undergoing clinical trials and which holds the promise of providing vastly improved treatment of stroke and acute cardiovascular disease for millions of patients.
by Jon W. Sparks
innovation: Coding training directly to teenagers using three models: summer coding camps, after-school programs, and in-school training. Draws in new students and sends them into the marketplace with the realization that mentoring, networking, and partnerships are all part of building a community that goes beyond being a savvy coder.
Meka Egwuekwe was well aware of the problem.
As a software engineer, he knew that Memphis and the Mid-South were on the wrong side of the digital skills gap. The call for relevant and effective computer programmers was out there but wasn’t being met as vigorously as was needed.
So he took action.
In 2012, he founded the Memphis Chapter of Black Girls Code, which would become one of the country’s most active efforts to teach girls how to build mobile apps, web pages, video games, and robots.
That would lead him to develop Code Crew in 2015, a program that goes directly to teenagers in schools and community centers, teaching them the nuts and bolts of the jobs of the future.
by Richard J. Alley
Where AutoZone might be your go-to supplier for motor oil, wiper blades, and spark plugs, Hollywood Feed is certainly your first stop for pet food, dog leashes, and catnip. And the two have more in common than just a Memphis base of operations. Hollywood Feed’s president, Shawn McGhee, purchased the pet supply company 10 years ago while still an executive vice president for the auto parts retailer.
“There are a number of AutoZone people who have seen our behind-the-scenes, and they all remarked how AutoZone-esque Hollywood Feed is,” McGhee says. “Much of the infrastructure and much of the benchmarks are very similar to what AutoZone was a number of years ago when I was there.”
by Bianca Phillips
”Success is the best revenge.”
Those are words to live by if you’re Ceil Walker, the charismatic CEO of Walker & Associates, a locally owned advertising, public relations, and marketing firm that represents clients as large as McDonald’s and NASA, and as homegrown as the Memphis Art Park and the Racine + Southern Dance Exchange.
“My mom has little plaques and coasters around the house that say, ‘Success is the best revenge.’ She’s always taught me to gracefully let things go and work as hard as you can to be successful, and the rest won’t matter someday,” says Cecilia Walker, Ceil’s daughter and the senior vice president of business development for the firm.
Ceil has followed her own advice and led the company to its 51st year in business. Walker & Associates also has the distinction of being the largest local ad firm run by a woman and the only such firm in Memphis that’s never merged with another firm or been acquired by a larger one.
But there was a time when Ceil had some doubters. Her husband Deloss Walker, who founded the company in 1965, passed away from a stroke in 1996, and Ceil, who was serving as president of the company at the time, took over as CEO.
by Jon W. Sparks
innovation: CHANGE: The youth-led social program working with students in grades 8 to 12, providing them with opportunities to become leaders who advance social justice through community organizing.
At BRIDGES, the idea is to push for a solution — and then push harder.
The nonprofit has long been focused on developing young people as tomorrow’s leaders, but the organization is finding that it’s imperative to let youth take on leadership as soon as possible.
“Several years ago we took a step back and looked at the Memphis community,” says Dana Wilson, vice president of the Bridge Builders youth program. “We saw the education landscape changing and daily lives of students changing, and realized it was important for us to re-evaluate how we work with young people and take it up a notch.”
by Meg Crosby
There is a new book on my reading list. The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore is a fictional account of the historical rivalry between Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb, and George Westinghouse, who improved upon it and ultimately wired the country. So, the question is, which of the two was the innovator? Both! Innovations come in all shapes and sizes — from the groundbreaking invention to the iterative improvement, and from the major disruptor to the better, faster, cheaper. It’s all innovation.
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