Philanthropist Marcus receives CAP’s Dan Sweat Award

April 5,2016

Bernie Marcus has earned many titles during his iconic career in Atlanta and the state of Georgia, but A.D. “Pete” Correll has another to add to the list. “Bernie is one of the world’s great preachers,” said Correll, the board chair for Grady Memorial Hospital Corp.“He tells our story as well as anybody could tell it.”

Marcus, the co-founder of The Home Depot Inc. and creator of the Georgia Aquarium among other things, has donated $50 million to help stabilize and enhance Grady Hospital, and has done as much good for Grady by putting his name on its facilities and receiving treatment there, Correll said.

“Those things say a lot to say we are more than just a safety net hospital,” Correll said. “He’s a wonderful, warm, caring man with a great big heart, but he can also be one of the toughest business people you’ve ever met in your life.”

The evidence of both those traits is clearly visible throughout the city of Atlanta, which is why Central Atlanta Progress Inc. is giving Marcus its Dan Sweat Award this year. The honor, named in memory of Central Atlanta Progress’ late president and avid downtown booster, singles out an effective leader who has gone beyond the call of his or her position.

The résumé Marcus brings to the awards ceremony is unassailable. Along with building The Home Depot and the aquarium (which he donated to the city of Atlanta 10 years ago), Marcus has provided critical financial support for the Grady Health Foundation, the CDC Foundation, Georgia Tech and the Marcus Institute.

“He’s made so many contributions, but obviously one of the first and most important ones was he founded a company which is a leading Fortune 500 company headquartered here in Atlanta,” said Dave Stockert, president and CEO of Post Properties and chairman of the board for Central Atlanta Progress. “It has provided leadership through its ranks to a number of organizations and obviously created a tremendous amount of economic stimulus, jobs, provided livings for a bunch of people who have worked at The Home Depot over the years, so that I have to hold up as certainly the thing that started it all. We’re really proud of that and we’re really proud to have Home Depot call Atlanta home.”

The Home Depot was only the beginning for Marcus, though.

“He covers the waterfront in terms of a person who’s dedicated everything in terms of his talent and his passion and his resources to making this place better,” Stockert said. “This is a guy who’s got real passion for the things that he gets involved in and if he gets involved in it, it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen well. You’re dealing with somebody who’s forthright, ethical, honest but very capable. You’re not gonna run over Bernie Marcus, that’s for sure. He does business the right way and he’s got the right kind of sense of community service. He’s just a very impressive overall person.”

Just the aquarium has had far-reaching impact not just on downtown Atlanta, as an anchor that has drawn the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame to the Centennial Olympic Park area, but also as an enormous stimulus for oceanic research and conservation efforts, said Mike Levin, chairman and CEO of the aquarium.

“Billi and Bernie Marcus wanted to create a mission-focused attraction that could be enjoyed by guests of any age, no matter ethnicity, interests or background,” Levin said. “Being conservationists, (they) also wanted to create a premier aquatic education and research center that consistently made groundbreaking discoveries and pushed the limit of what was possible.”