June 2010

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Preserving lives

Long a supporter of historic preservation, Sheffield Hale now helps the American Cancer Society save lives

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Sheffield Hale. Special photo

Even before he was chief counsel for the American Cancer Society, Sheffield Hale was involved in the nonprofit world.

“It is my hobby,” says Hale (AB ’82), who earned his law degree from the University of Virginia.

“Other people golf. I go to board meetings.”

Hale cut his nonprofit teeth on historic preservation. (He was a history major at UGA and has particularly fond memories of studying with—and renting a house from—professor Phinizy Spalding.) He is past chairman of the Atlanta Historical Society, past chairman of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, a trustee of the Fox Theatre and a former member of the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society. In January 2011 he will join the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

He enjoys being an activist.

“We get to revitalize communities and save buildings,” he says. “And there is an environmental component. The most sustainable buildings are the ones you already have.”

Outside of preservation, his volunteer work includes serving on the board of trustees for the Arch Foundation at UGA, which raises money for the flagship university. This year he is vice chair of that board.

Because of Hale’s interest in nonprofits, a friend approached him eight years ago about an American Cancer Society job. At the time, Hale was a partner in the corporate group at Kilpatrick Stockton.

Since making the switch, Hale has brought a passion for applying corporate best practices to the nonprofit world. As an example, he is working to establish new metrics that the American Cancer Society can use to chart progress and to share that progress with stakeholders.

He has had a lot to learn, he says, including parts of the law (such as tax law, employment law and litigation) and how to work in a nonprofit culture. He also manages a team of 40 people.

That steep learning curve is his favorite part of the job.

“Something new comes across my desk every day,” he says. “I still have a lot of intellectual stimulation.”

Hale lives with his wife Elizabeth in Buckhead, not far from where he grew up, and has three sons, ages 16, 18 and 20.

—Caroline Hubbard Wilbert is a writer living in Atlanta.