St. Charles Avenue’s Activists of the Year & Unsung Hero 2005 & 2006
St. Charles Avenue is proud to present its “Activists of the Year”for 2006—Barbara G. Bush and Dr. Stephen Hales—and “Unsung Hero” for2006—Gregory Ben Johnson.
The “Activists of the Year’ is a wayto acknowledge citizens who through the years have volunteered theirtime and talent to organizations that benefit the New Orleans area. The“Unsung Hero” spotlights a person who is doing great things for thecity, but hasn’t received the recognition that he or she deserves. Themagazine chooses someone who is on staff at an organization that iseither a nonprofit or focuses its efforts on the community, but whoalso volunteers.
The following profiles illustrate why our“Activists of the Year” and “Unsung Hero” are such deservingrecipients. (Please note that the organizations and awards listed bythe honorees are just a partial list due to space considerations.)
Activist of the Year 2006
Barbara G. Bush
AfterBarbara G. Bush graduated from Newcomb College and married, she lookedto volunteer work to meet people. As she took on more and more civicresponsibility, Barbara touched the lives of more New Orleans residentsthan she could ever know. “I kind of thrived on the people part of it,”she says.
The Junior League of New Orleans, one of the firstorganizations she joined, taught her the ins and outs of being a goodboard member. That experience made her a valuable member of the boardsof many civic and cultural organizations in the city.
Helpingher community is part of Barbara’s heritage from her parents. “I’m froma small community in Tennessee,” says Barbara, who was reared inLookout Mountain. “Everybody was involved in the church. My high schoolencouraged community work.”
In the past, Barbara chairedfund-raisers for many of the city’s major charities. She says she isnow passing the torch down to younger volunteers, who can learn fromthe successes she had. “We have a very volunteer-driven community and avery giving community,” she says.
But she doesn’t intend toretire from volunteer work just yet. In fact, she has redoubled herefforts to strengthen New Orleans in light of the devastation the cityreceived from Hurricane Katrina. She is a member of Citizens for 1Greater New Orleans, a grass-roots group pushing for levee board reformand consolidation of the city’s assessors’ offices. Through her church,St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian, she also participates in RHINO, orRebuilding Hope in New Orleans, which aids volunteers who are guttinghouses. RHINO began as a distribution center for clothing and otherneeded supplies and has mushroomed into an organization that has gutted200 homes. On Wednesdays the group gives out-of-state volunteers toursof the area so they can experience the destruction as a whole.
Barbaraand her husband A. Peyton Bush III have three sons. Peyton and hiswife, Elizabeth, live in Dallas and have a daughter, Charlotte. Harlanand his wife, Ingrid, are locals, while Curtis is an orthopedicresident at Georgetown Hospital in the District of Columbia. •
Past and Present Organizations
• St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church, Elder
• New Orleans Town Gardeners, Executive Committee
• Presbyterian Women, Executive Committee
• Junior League of New Orleans, President 1988-1989, and Rebuilding
• RHINO – Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans, Advisory Board
• Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
• Hermann-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses Board of Directors
• Chairwoman of fund-raisers: Children’s Hospital
“Sugarplum Ball,” Parkway Partners Brunch,
Volunteer and Information Agency “VIA Very
Important Affair,” Orleans Dollars for Scholars,
Hermann-Grima Soirée, March of Dimes
“Gourmet Gala” and Longue Vue House and
Garden’s “Sentimental Journeys”
• Children’s Hospital, Outstanding Volunteer, 1976, and “Sugarplum
Ball” honoree, 2003
• New Orleans Magazine, Ten Outstanding Woman Achievers, 1989
• St. Elizabeth’s Guild, Volunteer Activist, 1990
• Young Leadership Council, Role Model, 1993
• Family Service of Greater New Orleans Award, 2002
• Junior League of New Orleans Sustainer of the Year, 2004
• Newcomb Alumnae Association Katrina/Rita
Activist of the Year 2006
Stephen W. Hales, M.D.
Onethread runs through all of Dr. Stephen W. Hales’ activities: a love ofchildren. A pediatrician in practice for 28 years, he has donated histime and expertise to a number of organizations that touch the healthand welfare of the city’s youngsters, while finding time to raise sixsons with his wife, Nancy Harvey Hales.
Children’s Hospital isespecially dear to his heart. He began his affiliation when he came toNew Orleans in 1975, just as the hospital was transitioning from arehabilitation hospital to a general hospital. “It has been a joy towatch it grow,” he says of the hospital, which celebrated
its 50th birthday last year.
Dr.Hales says he believes in the ability of every one of the city’schildren to learn. He is on the board of the Good Shepherd School,which enrolls youngsters from low-income families in the city, and isnow active with the charter school movement. “We owe good schools toour children,” he says. Both Good Shepherd and charter schools “explodethe myth” that children from disadvantaged neighborhoods can’t excelacademically. “Children with access to wonderful educational resourceswill learn and achieve and come out of these schools in solid shape,”he says.
Other interests include teaching. When he went from asolo practice to taking in associates, he began teaching a medicalethics class to students at the LSU School of Medicine. “I really likethat contact with young doctors,” he says. And as a member of the Rexorganization, he heads up the club’s Project Purple, which connectsvolunteers to charter schools. The project was part of Rex’s effortsthis past Carnival season to help rebuild New Orleans. He and his wifeare also active boosters of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
Retirementis overrated, Dr. Hales says, and even if he wanted to, he couldn’tleave his practice now that Katrina has made such inroads into thecity’s medical community. “I really love taking care of children,” hesays, “watching them grow up and bring in their own children.” •
Past and Present Organizations
• Children’s Hospital, Board of Trustees
• Alliance Hospital System, Chairman, Steering Group
• The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, Advisory Board
• Metairie Park Country Day School, Chairman, Investment Committee;
Trustee and Board of Directors Chairman
• Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Board of Trustees
• Research Institute for Children, Children’s Hospital, Advisory Board
• Christian Health Ministries Foundation, Physicians Committee
• The Good Shepherd School, Board of Directors
• Fidelity Homestead Association, Board of Directors
• The Times-Picayune Loving Cup Selection Committee
• New Schools for New Orleans, Board of Directors
• Foundation for Science and Mathematics Charter School, Board of
• Ecole Bilingue of New Orleans, Advisory Board
• New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club, Board of Governors
• NSFRE, Philanthropy Day, Board of Directors Award, 1998
• Family Services Society “TOPS” (Ten Outstanding People) Award, 1999
• Metairie Park Country Day School, Honorary Degree, 1999
• Children’s Hospital “Sugarplum Ball” honoree, 2005
Unsung Hero 2006
Gregory Ben Johnson
ForGregory Ben Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater New OrleansFoundation, there is no clear line between work and civicresponsibility. At the foundation, Ben’s job is to match donors withworthy nonprofit organizations needing dollars, and to provideleadership and information to potential local and national donors. “Wehave over 600 different funds set up here at the foundation since1983,” he says. “There is hardly a nonprofit in this community wehaven’t touched.” The foundation has more than $130 million in assetsand distributes more than $8.5 million in grants annually.
Hiswork spills over into his volunteer time, during which he contributeshis energy toward making New Orleans a better place to live. “I’ve beenhere since 1971,” he says. “It’s my home, my civic responsibility andpart of my professional work.”
Since Hurricane Katrina, themain thrust of the foundation is to help rebuild the community, with aprimary focus on public schools, neighborhoods, the work force,literacy and supporting nonprofits. “The Women of the Storm startedtheir fund with us,” he says. Because the hurricane devastated so manyneighborhoods, the foundation is taking a regional approach, helping toset up affiliated foundations in other parishes.
The mostpressing project is work on the Unified New Orleans Plan for theRecovery Process, or UNOP, Ben says. “The most critical thing is to
completethis disaster recovery plan,” he says. The plan will enable New Orleansto tap into federal, FEMA and state dollars available for rebuilding.He encourages everybody to check out www.unifiedneworleans plan.org,the Web site for UNOP, to find out how they can get involved inplanning the future of their neighborhood.
He remains positiveabout New Orleans, envisioning a city with all the charm it hadpre-Katrina, but with an improved infrastructure and educationalsystem. He cites Ochsner Foundation’s purchase of three local
hospitals,the opening of many of the area’s universities and the 90 percentoccupancy rate in the Central Business District as signs the city isrebuilding.
“We had some warts, and we’re working on that,”
he says. “I think of it as a huge opportunity. We can come back bigger, stronger and more united.”
Benearned a master’s of business administration degree from TulaneUniversity. He and his wife, Barbara Johnson, have a teenage daughterand son. •
Past and Present Organizations
• Council on Foundations Leadership Team
• New Ventures in Philanthropy Executive Committee
• New Orleans Jobs Initiative Board
• Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans Board
• New Orleans Neighborhood Collaborative Board
• Academy of the Sacred Heart Board
• New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute Board
• New Orleans Museum of Art, Peaceful Liberator, 1995
• Young Leadership Council, Role Model, 1996
• National Conference of Christians and Jews Weiss Brotherhood Award
Activists of the Year for 2005
Photos by Megan Nadolski
St.Charles Avenue magazine is proud to present its “Activists of the Year”for 2005: Bill Goldring and Fran Villere. Now in its second year, the“Activists of the Year” is a way to acknowledge involved and engagedleaders who contribute time, talent and money to organizations thatbenefit the greater community.
New this year—and what willalso become an annual award—is the “Unsung Hero,” spotlighting a personwho is doing something great in the community, but hasn’t received therecognition he or she deserves.
Our first “Unsung Hero” is Monica Ponoroff.
Thefollowing profiles illustrate why our “Activists of the Year” and“Unsung Hero” are such deserving recipients. (Please note that theorganizations and awards listed are just a fraction of what ourhonorees have been a part of.)
Activist of the year 2005
WhenFran Gable Villere—a native Palm Beach, Fla.—moved to New Orleans in1967 after marrying George Villere, she soon started building her owngroup of friends and acquaintances. Starting off at the Dress Circle, aclothing store, she met many of the local ladies. Fran then volunteeredat the United Fund, now the United Way. But it wasn’t until she joinedthe Junior League of Greater New Orleans that Fran’s career involunteerism—and circle of contacts—took off. “It was wonderfultraining. We learned how to professionally run meetings, do committeework, be on time to meetings and more,” says Fran. “When I starteddoing more fund-raising work, a lot of men really respected this.”
Thewide range of organizations Fran has been involved with since thenshows her commitment to “how we together, can befollowers, supportersand leaders working as one for a better New Orleans. Our common goal isto create a community of choice—a place where we can live, work andraise a family—and together we will succeed” Fran said in the speechshe gave in 2003 upon winning the Times-Picayune Loving Cup, an awardgiven to men and women who unselfishly contribute to the communitywithout expectation of public recognition or reward. (Fran’s son ChrisVillere wrote the nomination letter—unbeknownst to her.)
Andwhile all the organizations she has been involved with have received100 percent of her energy, one gets the feeling that her work withProject Lazarus takes a special place in her heart. Project Lazarusprovides services to people with HIV/AIDS who can no longer liveindependently, or whose family can no longer take care of them. “I gotinvolved early on, when we really didn’t know much about AIDS,” Fransays. Fran started as a weekly volunteer in 1989, and in addition tothe usual fund-raising activities (calling for donations, organizingbenefits), she became hands-on in her work with Project Lazarus—washingwalls, tending to the sick and dying, doing errands, whatever it took.
Francredits her family—her husband, George, daughter Mathilde, sons Chrisand Lamar—with supporting and encouraging her efforts. As Fran fondlyrecalls, George once said, “What’s our placement [in the Junior League]this year!”
Fran says that she receives more than she ever couldgive when volunteering. “My life is enormously enriched by theindividuals I have met during my volunteer career, and I will alwaystreasure the memories of those courageous individuals,” she says.
List of Past and Present Organizations
• Greater New Orleans Foundation
• Children’s Hospital
• Kingsley House
• Project Lazarus
• Junior League of Greater New Orleans
• Ogden Museum of Southern Art
• New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation
• New Orleans Museum of Art
• Make-A-Wish Foundation of La.
• United Way
• Isidore Newman School
• Washington and Lee University
• Times-Picayune Loving Cup, 2003
• Guardian Angel Award, Project Lazarus, 2000
• National Jewish Medical and Research Center HumanitarianAward, 2000
• Kingsley House, Stern Award, 1998
• Young Leadership Council Role Model Award, 1996
• St. Elizabeth’s Guild, 1987
Activist of the year 2005
Ifyou wanted to personify someone who works behind the scenes and quietlygets the job done, Bill Goldring would be that person. And while youmay see various buildings around town bearing the Goldring name,
however, it’s in keeping with the family spirit
Buthow does one go from being a star high-school athlete to chairman ofRepublic Beverage Company—one of the United States’ largestindependently owned wine and spirits distributors—as well as one of thecity’s leading philanthropists?
It definitely has been ajourney, one that kicked off in 1964 when Bill turned 21 and received aspecial letter from his father, Stephen Goldring (who is commemoratedat the Ogden Museum of Southern Art with a bronze bust, shown here inthe photo). The letter stated that there were three basic things he andhis wife wished for Bill: health, happiness and wealth. Health was hisparent’s most precious wish, one that they could not help with, butwhich Bill had to take on all on his own, much like the second wish:Happiness, which “is a part of your life that you must create foryourself. There is no formula …” states the letter. Wealth, the finalwish, “is an ingredient that you can either earn or inherit … Wealthcan also bring you much happiness and satisfaction by helping others.”
WhileBill worked his way up in the family business, Magnolia Marketing Co.,becoming chairman in 1991, and while he raised a family, he never lostsight of his parents’ three wishes. In particular, Bill took to heartwhat his father wrote: “As you get older, you must serve yourcommunity, give time as well as money.”
A result is that manylocal organizations and nonprofits have benefited from Bill’sgenerosity: the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Audubon NatureInstitute, the Jewish Community Center, Tulane University, the NationalD-Day Museum, the Urban League, Bridge House, the Contemporary ArtsCenter, Touro Infirmary and many more. Also, many of the fund-raisersNew Orleanians attend serve liquor donated by his company.
Whilesome of the organizations listed above may seem, on the surface, tohave a prominent Goldring family presence (the Ogden Museum of SouthernArt’s main hall is named in honor of his father, who passed away in1997), Bill has also worked behind the scenes getting things done forthe betterment of many organizations and the community. So as thecommunity been enriched by Bill, he in turn has been enriched by thecommunity.
List of Past and Present Organizations
• Touro Infirmary Board of Directors
• Tulane University Board of Directors
• Tulane University Business School Council
• World Trade Center Board of Directors
• New Orleans Business Council Board of Directors
• Anti-Defamation League Board of Directors
• Temple Sinai Board of Directors
• Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America
• Isidore Newman School Board of Directors
• Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
• New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
• Ogden Museum of Southern Art
• Audubon Nature Institute Foundation Board of Directors
• Howard Tilton Memorial Library Association
• Goldring Family Foundation
• Woldenberg Foundation
• Tulane University Paul Tulane Society Award
• Tulane University A.B. Freeman School of Business Distinguished
• Tulane University Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award
• City of New Orleans Mayor’s Medal of Honor
• Association of Fund Raising Professionals
• Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year Award
• Gambit Weekly’s “New Orleanian of the Year” Award, 2003
Unsung Hero 2005
Whileit is often said that the future is our children, it takes a rareperson who can expand it beyond their own family. Such a person isMonica Ponoroff, who in 1994 founded “For the Children” —a school-basedliteracy program —with her husband, Lawrence Ponoroff, dean of TulaneLaw School.
When she moved to New Orleans, Monica had not heardgreat things about the public school system, but it wasn’t until shevisited and volunteered at the James E. Lewis Elementary School thatshe went into action. “It broke my heart. I found it very distressingand upsetting,” Monica says. “There was a lack of resources and supportfor public school students and I wanted to try to do something about itby bringing volunteers and resource materials into the schools.”
Takingaction, she enlisted her husband’s support and started “For theChildren” in James E. Lewis, tutoring first- to fifth-graders.
BeforeHurricane Katrina, the program—in its twelfth year—was at LafayetteElementary School, Crocker Elementary School and Henry W. AllenElementary School.
Volunteers include retirees, professionals, Tulane University staff
and students, and high-school students. “There are many people in
our community who care and want to get involved. What they need
is a structured, organized way to do it, and that’s where we come in,”
“For the Children” operates as a Tulane University Outreach
program, but it depends entirely on private donations and public
and private grants to meet its annual budget.
“To me, this program is much more than just a reading program,”
says Monica. “It’s about mentoring. It’s about bringing people together, and it’s about making children our first priority.”
“My greatest reward are the children … and they so badly want to learn,” she says.
• Blue Cross Blue Shield Angel Award, 1997
• Daily Points of Light Award, 1998
• Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge Award, 1998
• National Council of Jewish Women “Those Who Dare to Care About
Kids” Award, 2003