St. Charles Avenue is proud to present its “Activists of the Year” for 2008 – Robert W. Brown, Ruthie Frierson and Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, Anne Milling and Women of the Storm, King Milling and Julie Wise Oreck – and Unsung Hero for 2008 – Andre M. Perry Ph.D.

By recognizing the “Activists of the Year,” we are acknowledging New Orleanians who, through the years, have volunteered their time, talent and effort to organizations that benefit our city. The “Unsung Hero” acknowledges a person who is making great strides for New Orleans but hasn’t received the recognition he or she deserves. An editorial committee of this magazine chooses someone who’s on staff at an organization that’s either a nonprofit or focuses its efforts on the community and volunteers.

Please read on to learn why these six people (and their amazing groups) are so deserving of recognition.
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero    New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Activists of the Year: Anne Milling
If there were such a thing a professional volunteer, Anne M. Milling of Women of the Storm would be one. She began her career in volunteer activism in 1966 when she went door to door for the United Way, soliciting support from her neighborhood.

It was Milling’s parents who first instilled in her the value and necessity of volunteering one’s time. “My brothers and I were raised with the belief that everyone ‘gives back,’” she remembers from her youth in Monroe.

Milling, who is also a devoted wife and mother of three boys, prepared for her career in volunteerism by earning her bachelor’s degree from Newcomb College at Tulane University in 1962 and her master’s degree from Yale University in 1963.
Milling is the founder of Women of the Storm, a diverse grassroots organization that educates members of Congress, and others who set the national agenda, by bringing them to New Orleans and coastal Louisiana to see first-hand the unprecedented damage left in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the
challenges of rebuilding, the signs of progress and how Louisiana’s recovery has a direct impact on every state. So far, almost 200 members of Congress and countless media have taken advantage of this opportunity.

“New Orleanians must continue their strong civic involvement,” Milling
challenges her neighbors. “We must continue to demand accountability from government at every level.” Her focus isn’t limited to New Orleans. “Women of the Storm are giving serious consideration to taking our message of restoration of our energy coast to Houston,” she adds.

Although Milling’s time is freely given, it’s not wholly unrewarded. “What a joy it has been to share a common bond with these women,” she says of Women of the Storm, “rebuilding our community while building trust and friendships!”
As for the future of her organization, Milling has high hopes. “Nothing would be more powerful than collaborating with women in Texas and other neighboring Gulf states, jointly storming a new Congress and a new administration with a message about the critical importance of national priorities including coastal restoration, infrastructure support and disaster planning/response,” she says.

– by Alex Gecan and Leigh Ann Stuart
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Activists of the Year: King Milling
King Milling married into volunteerism, and fit into the caste perfectly. He is the husband of Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm, with whom he has three sons, Clay II, King Jr., and Michael.

Milling is vice-chairman of the Whitney Holding Corporation and the Whitney National Bank, and has also served as president of both institutions. He has also been on both institutions’ Boards of Directors since 1977.

Previous to his career in banking, Milling was a lawyer, having earned his Bachelor of Arts from Washington & Lee University in 1962 and his Bachelor of Law from Tulane University in 1965. He rose to become a senior partner in the firm Milling, Benson, Woodward, Hillyer, Pierson & Miller.

Outside of the professional arena, Milling is the chairman for America’s WETLAND Foundation and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana. America’s WETLAND is devoted to rebuilding and maintaining Louisiana’s coastal wetlands by lobbying for attention and support for the rapidly shrinking ecosystem.

CPRA was formed by the Louisiana State Legislature in order to both protect Louisiana’s coastline from further erosion and to help mitigate some of the damage that has already occurred in the region.

Milling’s activist career began in 1970, at the midpoint of his legal career. He served as Chariman of the Upper Pontalba Commission. He has also served on the Audubon Park Commission under former Mayor Moon Landrieu.

“I plan to remain strongly involved,” Milling says of his future in activism, “and actively work toward implementation of a sound coastal restoration plan which would be beneficial to our region, state, and nation.”

Milling, who likes to read about history and the important people through it, gets to rub shoulders with the other giants of our time. “It has been extremely rewarding to see businessmen, politicians and environmentalists work in concert for a common goal,” he says, “restoration of our energy coast.”

– by Alex Gecan and Leigh Ann Stuart
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero

New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Activists of the Year: Ruthie Frierson

Ruth "Ruthie" Frierson may be one of the most recognizable names in New Orleans today. For the 18 years prior to 2005, Frierson was one of the top residential realtors with Prudential Gardner Realtors, but when that fateful storm hit, Frierson knew she had to stand up and fight for the city she loves. "After Katrina I knew I wanted to be involved in our region’s recovery," she says. "The need for reform presented itself in November of 2005 when the state legislature failed to consolidate and reform the levee boards in Southeastern Louisiana."

From this need for recovery Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans was born. As founder and chairman, Frierson, along with an executive committee of 11 other members, has been working tirelessly both in solo efforts and collaboratively with other nonprofit organizations to reform and rebuild the community. Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is now her full-time profession, and Frierson couldn’t be happier.

After graduating with her bachelor’s from Newcomb College in U.S. and Modern European History, Frierson and her husband Louis settled down in New Orleans to raise their family. They have two sons and a grandson. Frierson also serves on the board of the New Orleans Crime Commission, which she helped create, and is a Fleur de Lis Ambassador for New Orleans.

Frierson counts the local community as one of her biggest motivators to work so tirelessly. "My community involvement has been inspired by my faith and the evidence of need all around me. We are all connected to one another and only through listening and working together can we rebuild a better New Orleans. People and organizations from across our community have come together to work for the common good. This gives me inspiration to continue our efforts."

– by Lilith Dorko
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Activists of the Year: Julie Wise Oreck
As a born and raised New Orleanian, Julie Wise Oreck grew up with an inspired view of community building. Both of her parents were very active in community organizations; her father served as president of the Jewish Community Center, while her mother was active in the family’s synagogue and national women’s philanthropy causes. Although Oreck says she got involved more on the level of philanthropy than social service, she nevertheless works tirelessly to better the world around her. “My parents helped me realize you could really make a difference in whatever endeavors you undertake,” she says. “There’s always a niche I felt like I could help.”

After attending Tulane University and obtaining a degree in business, she moved to New York City to do her graduate work in Property and Casualty Insurance. Upon her return to New Orleans, she has served on various boards and committees in the city through out the years, including the Contemporary Arts Center and the Holman Vocational Center. She also takes semi-annual trips to Israel, and as a young adult spent a year in Israel working for non-governmental organizations.

Beyond philanthropy, she and her husband Marshall, the executive vice president of the Oreck Corporation, enjoy traveling to their two favorite destinations, Destin and Aspen. Her children, daughters Zoë and Sophie, and stepson Alden, are grown, but Oreck says her favorite pastime was watching them play sports when they were younger. She herself enjoys playing tennis, “but I’m very mediocre,” she jokes.
From a community building standpoint, Oreck says she’s very excited about the influx of younger generations into to the city. “It’s so great that all these 20-somethings are coming here to work and help,” she says. “But I really want to see them actually be able to stay, beyond simply wanting to stay.”

Oreck is currently busy preparing for her latest professional move, as she will soon be the incoming president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

– by Lilith Dorko
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Activists of the Year: Robert W. Brown
Managing director of Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, Robert W. “Bob” Brown coordinates and manages relationships with elected officials, governmental bodies and civic groups and compiles and “analyzes research aimed at supporting the group’s goals and priorities,” he says.

Founded in the 1980s, the Business Council’s purpose is to promote and enhance the social welfare, economic climate, and environment of the city, region and state.
“I’m most proud of the way my organization is tackling some of the most pressing problems in my community,” Brown says.

His experience leading up to his current position is impressive. Until last year he was vice chancellor of governmental, community and diversity affairs at the University of New Orleans. There, he was responsible for the university’s state, regional and governmental relations activities.

A native of Franklinton, La., Brown also serves on a number of boards, including the Bureau of Governmental Research, where he chairs the BGR “Breakfast Briefing” series. He also works with the Legacy Donor Foundation and the YMCA of Greater New Orleans.

Somehow, Brown finds the time to be a family man. He has a wife, Brenda, and two children – daughter Deborah and son Kevin (along with a French Bulldog named Bella).  In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching CNN and C-Span (he’s a self-described political junkie). He also follows college basketball.

Brown believes that New Orleans needs the most help in reducing the blighted housing in neighborhoods. He also plans on working with the New Orleans Math & Science School. “I’m interested in helping to get a student book club started,” he says.

Brown says he’s “blessed in so many ways” and serving his community is his way of trying to be worthy of all the good things that have come his way.

– by Sarah Ravits
New Orleans Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero
Unsung Hero of the Year: Andre Perry
Andre Perry has spent the greater portion of his adult life living and breathing education. As Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Development as well as CEO of the Capital One-UNO Charter Network, he has fast become one of New Orleans’ foremost authorities on charter education.

His hefty list of duties begins with a central charge: Implementation of the educational process for the charter school network for students pre-kindergarten through high school. This description, however, doesn’t explain how much he truly does. Just to name a few, Perry’s duties also include assisting faculty, supervising the executive director of Charter Schools and other school leaders, fostering community business and nonprofit partnerships, garnering funding and serving as media spokesman and policy advocate. Currently, Perry is even tackling the topic of diaspora of New Orleans’ black community post-Hurricane Katrina through an analysis and report titled State of Black New Orleans, a project funded in part by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.

When he’s not working to better charter schools in New Orleans, he teaches as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Counseling and Foundations at the University of New Orleans. When he’s not teaching, he’s lecturing at scholarly institutions including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University of Maryland – College Park, Goucher College, Loyola College and Millersville University.

As an educator and respected media spokesman, Perry’s own educational background is certainly a matter of interest – as you’d expect, it’s quite impressive.
Perry earned his B.A. from Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn. before going on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Education Policy and Leadership, with an emphasis in Higher Education. He has contributed regularly to The Louisiana Weekly, has written for Black Issues in Higher Education (Volume 19, No. 13), and even contributed photographs to Fellowship Magazine in 2007.

Perry utilizes his extensive speaking experience to spread education-related news through New Orleans.

As a public relations expert and advocate, he has spoken weekly – since 2005 – about issues in education every Friday at 4:45 p.m. as part of the National Public Radio’s (89.9 WWNO) All Things Considered, a widely heard, and widely respected, program. For those who prefer television media, Perry appears there, too. The second Tuesday of every month, his views on issues such as race and class are roused during “Courageous Conversations,” a part of WDSU-TV’s 6 on Your Side program.

– by Leigh Stuart