The 2016 Swan House Ball, benefiting the Atlanta History Center, was all about looking back, looking forward and reveling in the present.
The April 16 event, chaired by Spring Asher and Victoria Palefsky, honored Mary Ann and Lloyd Whitaker.
The Whitakers’ vision, generosity and philanthropic leadership launched the effort to restore and relocate the Cyclorama, which depicts the 1864 Battle of Atlanta, from the Zoo Atlanta campus to the Atlanta History Center grounds. It is due to open in fall 2017 with a 2018 completion date.
“Their $10 million gift kicked off a domino effect,” Zoo Atlanta CEO Raymond King said. “We owe a debt of gratitude, as a city, to Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker. They have left a legacy.”
It was after reading former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jeremiah McWilliams’ Jan. 27, 2013 article about the then-sad state of the Atlanta Cyclorama that the Whitakers were inspired to act. To the tune of $10 million. McWilliams is now director of employee and leadership communications at the Coca-Cola Company.
The Whitakers received the warmest of ovations as they rose to address the crowd, assembled under one of Peachtree Tents & Events’ most elegant temporary structures. Atlantic Trust was presenting sponsor and the Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises and Delta Air Lines served as platinum sponsors.
“The Cyclorama will be here for us, for our children and for our children’s children, and for that we are very proud,” said Lloyd Whitaker, who grew up on a Greensboro dairy farm before serving as a major in the U.S. Marine Corps and a career as a partner at the firm that’s now Alston & Bird and as president of Cousins Properties’ Office Development Division. He is now founder and owner of Newleaf Corporation.
“I have loved living in Atlanta,” said Mary Ann Whitaker, a Chicago native who taught school prior to the arrival of the Whitakers’ first child. She’s been active with local organizations including the Atlanta Junior League, Piedmont Garden Club and Zoo Atlanta. “One of the first things I did was take our children to the Cyclorama.”
The Atlanta History Center plans to open the new Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building in 2017 to allow the public to view the ongoing restoration of the 1886 treasure. Its projected completion date is in 2018.
The Texas Locomotive, now being restored in North Carolina, is due for a late 2016 return.
“The Texas Locomotive may be, next to Souper Jenny, one of the coolest things at the Atlanta History Center,” said Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale, referring to the center’s delectable new culinary destination.
Patrons enjoying the perfect weather and glorious event included former Gov. Roy Barnes and Marie Barnes, Emily and Rodney Cook, Danielle Rollins, Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood and Dr. Felton Norwood, Caroline Leake, Juanita and Gregory Baranco, Kathleen and Gary Rollins, Jack Sawyer and Dr. Bill Torres, Sally Dorsey and Herb Miller, Kay and Ron Quigley, Lisa Fuller and Patti Dickey.
The event’s host committee chairs were Eileen and Bo DuBose and Karen and Richard Parker. Patron chairs were Blain and Ivan Allen IV and Lovette and Michael Russell. Joyce Shlesinger served as auction chair while Hale served as corporate chair.
“Are we lucky or what to be in Atlanta?” Asher said as she and Palefsky kicked things off. “The History Center is about education. The money from tonight’s effort is about education.”
Palefsky saluted both her husband, Howard Palefsky, and Tony Conway of Legendary Events, responsible for the resplendent decor.
“First I want to thank Howard, and then I also want to thank my boyfriend Tony Conway,” she quipped. “Howard’s very understanding about that.”
Palefsky concluded her remarks with a toast to the past, present and future – and to the Atlanta History Center’s brilliant leadership, tying them all together: “Here’s to Sheffield!”