published Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Benwood finds new leader in backyard


• Age 52

• Native of Memphis

• Married to Jay Morgan and mother of Hunter and Rankin

• Earned a bachelor of arts from Vanderbilt University

• Served as program officer for the Lyndhurst Foundation since 2002

• Has served on the boards of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Chattanooga Housing Authority, Community Impact of Chattanooga, Women's Fund of Chattanooga and the Ochs Center

• Will begin her tenure as president of the Benwood Foundation on Jan. 1, 2013

Source: Benwood Foundation

Passion, a proven record and the ability to listen are some of the qualities that newly named Benwood President Sarah Morgan brings to the foundation.

"She can move us forward and continue to move on great work," said Paul Brock, the foundation's board chairman.

The foundation launched a nationwide search when Corinne Allen, who served as Benwood executive director for 13 years, announced in February she was going to retire. The result was more than 300 applicants from across the country, Brock said.

The short list of four who interviewed came from a wide range of places, from the West Coast to Michigan, but in the end, Morgan's experience and skills gave her the edge, officials said.

Morgan, a native of Memphis, has served as program officer for the Lyndhurst Foundation since 2002, focusing on the revitalization of downtown and redevelopment.

"I've spent my adult professional life in this field," Morgan said. "I'm very passionate about this work."

She will begin her tenure at Benwood at the beginning of the year, when the foundation will go through strategic planning sessions to determine its next steps.

"It's an exciting time to be able to delve a little deeper into what the opportunities and challenges are for today in Chattanooga and how Benwood could be of help in playing a leadership role in solving some of those issues," Morgan said.

Benwood was set up in 1944 by George Thomas Hunter as a tribute to his uncle, Ben Thomas, who owned the world's first franchised Coca-Cola bottling company in Chattanooga. Benwood now boasts an endowment of $100 million, according to the foundation.

Each year, the foundation contributes about $5.5 million to different projects in the community, according to Brock. Its four focus areas are arts and culture, the environment, education and community building.

"I feel certain that those are areas that will continue to be important to us as we move forward, but there may be other pieces, as well. I just don't know at this time," he said.

Since 1999, Benwood has invested close to $8 million in arts and culture, according to the foundation, and nearly $11 million into efforts including improving the Tennessee River waterfront and neighborhoods.

"Chattanooga has been extremely blessed with philanthropies that have played a leadership role revitalizing our community, and Benwood has been one of those leaders," Morgan said.

"Benwood has done very impressive work in the past. They have a great team at the foundation, so I look forward to joining that team and exploring with them what the new opportunities for transformative work looks like for the future."

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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