A Closer Look At Community Philanthropists

Two long time Atlantans were honored last month by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for their transformative philanthropic contributions to the greater Atlanta Community.

Tom Chapman and Rabbi Alvin Sugarman received their awards from Bernie Marcus in a ceremony at the Georgia Aquarium. Mr. Marcus, who has close relationships with both men, spoke from the heart and acknowledged that he was going “off-script.”

Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, rabbi emeritus of The Temple, was named the “Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year.” As a founder of the Genesis Shelter, which serves the homeless population, particularly families with newborns, he has made service a priority and has been instrumental in uniting several faith groups around significant community issues. Rabbi Sugarman gave an emotional address as he accepted his award asking all present to consider their hands, the hands of God on earth and by inference, to use them accordingly.

Mr. Chapman was honored as the Philanthropist of the Year. The retired CEO of Equifax, which is headquartered in the metro region, has made many significant gifts to organizations both in the Atlanta area, and beyond. No less than three tables of Clemson University representatives attended the event out of respect and support for Mr. Chapman, a Clemson alumnus and former student athlete. His giving spans the spectrum of health care, education, and human services.  His first wife, Jane, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, and later succumbed to the disease in 2003. Mr. Chapman himself was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. His experience as a caregiver for his wife and as a cancer survivor gave him a unique perspective and even more of a reason to contribute as a donor and volunteer. As a result he has made numerous gifts to support Piedmont Healthcare’s oncology nursing staff and to establish the Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness Center. Mr. Chapman and his wife, Karen, have made contributions to the Marcus Autism Center, the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and his alma mater, Clemson University, among others.

It was through his involvement with Clemson University that I had the honor of meeting with Mr. Chapman. He graciously shared his philanthropic experiences with Clemson, and details about the many transformative gifts he had made.

Mr. Chapman spoke about the approach various institutions took when seeking support. He said that when Clemson contacted him, his first response was, “What took you so long?” He told me that he has truly appreciated an organization’s desire to seek his opinion, insights, and advice before asking for funds.

Most importantly, he values the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of individuals, whether it is a Clemson student involved in his leadership program or cancer patients who are helped by a nurse navigator, in a position he funded. He has enjoyed meeting many of the beneficiaries of his benevolence over the years.

As we approach the upcoming seasons of thankfulness and giving, we all should strive to emulate the legacies that these two great philanthropists are creating in our community.