GSU’s Amanda G. Hyatt Fellows continue compassionate community leadership

Andrew Young School graduates carry on her legacy through metro Atlanta nonprofits

Amanda G. Hyatt’s résumé showed how much she cared about Atlanta’s urban planning and policy. Before her death in 2000, Hyatt represented Douglas County on the Atlanta Regional Commission. She chaired the Governor’s Welfare Reform Task Force. She co-founded the Regional Leadership Institute. Those are just a few highlights of her career bringing together people to solve common problems.

This month, the fellowship at Georgia State University established in her honor showed again that Hyatt’s values continue to impact the work of nonprofits in Atlanta. Nancy Friauf (M. Ed., 1983) received the Amanda G. Hyatt Fellowship as an affirmation of her work as executive director of Genesis Shelter, which provides lodging and services for newborns and their parents who otherwise would be homeless.

Friauf, 54, is a part-time master’s student at GSU’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, pursuing a degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management.

“This fellowship is a real special recognition of the work I have done,” Friauf said. “To receive an honor like this in memory of such a special person, I’m very humbled and committed to move forward in a way to respect and honor her.”

Friauf connected directly with Hyatt’s work by attending the Regional Leadership Institute. “Her work certainly affected my path,” said Friauf, who for 32 years has worked in Atlanta nonprofits serving the needy.

“As social service providers, our voice is not present because leaders are focused on big economic and community development issues. This is why we have to keep working so hard to bring forward what we see – the people we service, their needs and issues – so they will be a visible part of the public conversation. Abused kids’ and single moms’ voices are not heard so we must be their voice.”

Amanda Hyatt was that voice, too. She was similarly passionate about compassionate public service and committed leadership. She is remembered as a petite dynamo who drove a pickup truck.

“She weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, and drove her truck into Atlanta to do her [nonprofit]work,” said Friauf, recalling what she learned from her fellowship interview with Wayne Hyatt, Amanda Hyatt’s husband.

At those meetings, she was known for taking a stand for sound public policies even when they were unpopular. That strength continues to inspire Christina Lennon (M.S., 2005), who received the first Hyatt Fellowship in 2003 and serves today as the executive director of the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation.

“Mr. Hyatt [Amanda Hyatt’s husband]could not have given me a greater compliment than when he told me, ‘You have the fire in your belly that reminds me so much of her,’ “ Lennon said. “I feel like we are kindred spirits because she was singularly focused, too.”

Through Lennon’s leadership, the Lighthouse Foundation expanded its vision and hearing services to low-income people in Georgia. She led the organization to open 19 vision clinics statewide, create a new hearing aid program and almost doubled the number of corrective surgeries provided. The number of people served rose from 1,000 to 7,500.

“I would not be here [as executive director]if I had not gotten my master’s at Georgia State,” said Lennon, who frequently returns to the Andrew Young School to lecture. She received the Andrew Young School’s Distinguished Alumni Award last year.

Lennon’s experience as a Hyatt Fellow  “illustrates well for students how a caring and dedicated leader can change things for the better, in Christina’s case by helping the disadvantaged across Georgia,” said John Clayton Thomas, GSU professor of public management and policy. “Students also draw inspiration from seeing someone who was on the other side of the lectern as a student less than a decade ago now leading a major nonprofit agency.”

Lennon said that Hyatt’s example serves as a driving force for her work today.

“I am accountable to produce results because Mr. Hyatt and GSU made an investment in me,” she said. “I am incredibly passionate about this industry and feel a responsibility to mentor people who are going into it…. For me it’s about bringing volunteers and groups together to solve a problem that is bigger than one person, and that’s what we are supposed to do – work together to solve a problem.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424