Gregory G. Schroeder, president and CEO of the United Way of the Coastal Empire, announced his retirement from the organization on Friday. Schroeder, who has led the local organization since 2002, will retire in early summer 2018.
“I will have 33 years of service with United Way come summer of 2018 and that’s been my long-term plan since I first began with United Way in 1985,” Schroeder, 65, said.
“With my youngest child graduating from the University of Georgia this spring semester, I felt the timing was perfect to enter the next chapter in my life.”
A certified public accountant with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, Schroeder began his career with the United Way in 1985, serving as chief financial officer with United Way of Greater Atlanta. He later became the chief operating officer for Heart of America United Way in Kansas City before coming to Savannah.
Prior to joining the United Way, Schroeder was working as a CPA for a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, but realized he wanted to connect his personal values with his work.
“United Way was the perfect opportunity for that,” he said.
“I feel truly blessed. Whenever you have an opportunity to connect your values with your work, it’s a great combination and it truly feels like a way of life. It doesn’t really feel like work. It’s just a way of life, and it’s a great feeling.”
Along with plans for more kayaking, paddle boarding and dance lessons, Schroeder will continue serving the United Way by focusing on major gifts and planned giving after the new president is hired.
“We’re excited for Gregg, and the fortunate thing is that he loves Savannah so much that he’s going to stay here and continue to be involved with United Way,” said board Chair Steve Pound.
Pound said Schroeder has brought a new level of stability, professionalism and accountability to the organization since taking over in 2002.
“He’s really gifted at listening to people and making those relationships and connections,” Pound said.
“If you have an interest in health care, education or economic independence, Gregg makes donors feel like they’re really making an impact on something close to their heart.”
Immediate past board chair Jenny Gentry echoed Pound’s sentiments and said the organization’s results under Schroeder’s leadership had been phenomenal.
“I’m definitely sad to see him go, but I’m certainly happy for him and he’s leaving a good legacy. Thirty-three years with the same organization is a big accomplishment,” Gentry said.
“Gregg has just done a tremendous job at building relationships and has really helped fortify this effort into the collective effort we call the United Way.”
Gentry said Schroeder’s personality has been a perfect complement to the atmosphere in Savannah.
“Savannah has always been a giving town and Gregg has a certain style, very comforting and relaxing, which has made him successful in really understanding Savannah,” she said.
Schroeder said his position has allowed him to grow those relationships from a business standpoint to something more personal, which is what he’s enjoyed the most.
“Getting to know the people on a personal and professional level has been the most rewarding aspect of the job with me and I have really truly enjoyed that,” he said.
“To have a job where the mission of the organization is to improve people’s lives, who can ask for a better opportunity than that in your work? I feel very blessed and grateful to have had this opportunity for the past 33 years. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
A search committee of the Board of Directors, led by Pound, has been formed to conduct a national search to identify Schroeder’s replacement.
“Under Gregg we’ve grown and our campaigns have gotten stronger, so we really want to pay attention to the tradition and the organization we’ve become,” Pound said of searching for a new president, adding that the organization is also reaching out to key stakeholders for input during the search.
“We want to keep the tradition alive, but also move toward meeting donors where their needs are. We need someone who can balance that landscape and lead us into the future.”
Pound said it will be business as normal for the organization while they focus on finding the right person for the job and work to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Schroeder is confident in the board’s future decision and said that he aims to leave the organization in a positive position for the next president.
“I really want to thank my co-workers for giving such a big part of their lives to this organization,” Schroeder said.
“They’ve truly changed my heart forever, and I will be eternally grateful to my co-workers.”