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VOL. 133 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 2, 2018

Soulsville Foundation Adds Board Members, Eyes Future Growth

By Andy Meek

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The foundation that launched 20 years ago and operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy and the Soulsville Charter School has added a dozen names to its board of directors. An expansion that’s meant to help lift the organization to new heights.

That’s according to Soulsville Foundation president and CEO Richard Greenwald, who said the organization has big plans for its 20th anniversary year. And leadership and governance are one place you start whenever that’s the case for a nonprofit like his, when big ambitions need executing.

Soulsville now has more than $30 million in assets on its campus in South Memphis. There are more than 100 employees on the campus, the Stax Museum gets more than 60,000 visitors a year, and it has two programs that serve more than 800 middle and high school children each day.

Thus, the move to “reinvigorate” the organization’s board to pave the way for more success to come.

“It was time for us to take a look at that, and to find board members who could help us grow our mission and develop a strategy where we could take this to another level,” Greenwald said. “And we didn’t want to just find people like, ‘Well, that person could probably help raise money, so let’s get them on the board.’”

In growing the board from eight names to 12, the organization cast a wide net in search of people who included music industry talent as well as individuals who could bring an out-of-town perspective.

The music industry connection was particularly important, since Soulsville shepherds the Stax brand. To that end, new music business names include Michele Smith, senior director of project management for Concord Music, as well as Kirby Dockery.

Dockery is also something the board has never had before: an alumni representative from the Soulsville Foundation’s youth programs. Before attending Berklee College of Music, she attended the Stax Music Academy in the mid-2000s and is signed today to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company as an artist as well as a songwriter who’s penned tunes for Beyonce, Demi Lovato and more.

New additions to the Stax Foundation board

Shannon Brown, senior vice president/chief human resources and diversity officer, FedEx Express

Frederick Davie, executive vice president, Union Theological Seminary of New York City

Kirby Dockery, Stax Music Academy graduate; songwriter and recording artist, Roc Nation

Meka Egwuekwe, co-founder and executive director, Code Crew

Jenny Koltnow, chief development officer, Church Health

John Kremer, vice president, business development, partner ecosystem and product operations, digital media, Adobe

James Maclin, principal consultant, M&M Enterprises Inc.

Tom Marino, executive director, Poplar Foundation

Beverly Robertson, principal, TRUST Marketing & Communications

Gary Shorb, executive director, Urban Child Institute

Michele Smith, senior director of project management, Concord Music

Samuel A ("A") Thompson IV  - managing partner, Walnut Grove Capital Partners


“We also wanted to get some out-of-town perspective on what we’re doing, to open up new prospects in terms of finding support,” Greenwald said. “We’ve also got a national expert on youth development issues, from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, who’s been in the Obama and Bush White Houses as part of the faith-based initiative efforts that those White Houses had.”

The board meets four times a yearly formally, and its subcommittees are starting to meet at an even more regular clip. “A very active board,” in Greenwald’s words.

It’s helping the organization as it embarks on several priorities, one of which involves the creation of a strategy document that includes some agreed-on core priorities.

“Filling that out is important to us,” Greenwald said. “Some of them are really thinking about the museum. It’s a social enterprise, in that it turns somewhat of a profit through admissions and the gift shop, then we take those profits and reinvest them in programming. Namely the Stax Music Academy. So it’s time for us to think about the museum, where do we want it to go from here.

“Our second priority is to think about alumni, and a third is to think about our position in the neighborhood. Thinking about our campus, what it should look like and then how do we become – thinking about our position as neighbors in the future.”

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