Gary Dollar, 58, plans to retire as president and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Louis after 12 years of leadership, the agency announced on Friday.
Dollar will remain with the United Way team until July 1, 2013 to facilitate a smooth transition. He has been with the organization for 28 years.
Dollar said it’s the right time to identify his successor.
“In 2013, United Way enters a major strategic planning process to lay out the direction for our future in serving the greater St. Louis community,” he said. “The person who will see that plan through to the end should be deeply engaged in developing it.”
Jim Weddle, board chair of the United Way, announced the news to board members in a letter Friday.
“During Gary’s 28 years, United Way has raised more than $1.5 billion, including $734.7 million during his time as president and CEO,” Jim Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones, said in a press statement.
“We also instituted the Quality Standards for Agencies and 2-1-1 confidential helpline service, and have consistently ranked among the most generous and effective in the country.”
When Dollar began working with the local United Way in 1985, he started out as a campaign associate, which is an entry-level fundraiser. He thought he would only be with the organization for a couple years.
“But I fell in love with our mission, and I could never leave,” he said.
He said he wanted to do something that would make a difference in the community, as well as create opportunities for others to participate in that mission.
One of his proudest achievements has been carrying on the legacy of his predecessor, Charmaine Chapman.
“She made it a much more inclusive organization,” Dollar said. “We’ve continued to grow and expand her work. More people – from all walks of life – feel that the United Way is their organization, and I feel proud of that.”
The Charmaine Chapman Society was founded in 1994 by Donald M. Suggs, publisher and executive editor of the St. Louis American. Since renamed the African-American Leadership Giving Society, it is the largest philanthropic program for African Americans in the St. Louis region and throughout the country, with more than 850 local individuals making commitments annually.
“While it has been tremendous in raising money, it has been just as important in bringing leaders into the organization,” Dollar said.
Orv Kimbrough, executive vice president with United Way, said Dollar has mentored countless people, including him, by encouraging their professional development and stressing the importance of character, relationships and personal sense of mission.
“Our United Way has gone to new levels as a result of Gary’s disciplined leadership,” Kimbrough said.
“Throughout his career he has engaged diverse volunteers at all levels of the community in a way that values their perspective and input. I am looking forward to picking up more nuggets and helping more people over the next year of his leadership.”
These new African-American leaders, like Kimbrough, also help the organization to better understand the needs in the black community, Dollar said.
‘Man of faith’
“Gary Dollar is a man of faith, who quietly lives out his beliefs through his tireless efforts on behalf of people in need,” said Donald M. Suggs. “His commitment to the United Way’s mission made him a worthy successor to his mentor and exemplar, Charmaine Chapman. On a more personal note, he is one of the finest individuals I have ever known.”
David Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, Inc., served as chairman of the United Way for three years, from 2006 to 2008, and has been a leader in the Charmaine Chapman Society since 2001.
“I’ve seen no one more professional and no one more committed than Gary Dollar,” Steward said.
“One of the things that will be the legacy that he and Charmaine Chapman will leave behind is that nowhere in the community do you see a better collaboration of like-minded people working together for a core mission. It cuts across culture and the pecking order that you may or not see in the community. It cuts across all colors towards a common objective, and that is to serve people. Any time you can be the 18th largest metropolitan city and the fourth largest in giving, that says a lot about leadership.”
Dollar, who grew up in Venice, Ill., considers St. Louis his home and plans to stay here.
“My wife, Gale, and I enjoy being here,” said Dollar, who lives in Glen Carbon. “It’s a great community, and we are pretty committed here.”
For the next year, Dollar said he will completely focus on “doing what we need to do to help people in need.” He has not made any plans after this year, he said. However, he does hope to spend more time with his grandson, Callum, who is 10 months old.
“Everyone can make a difference in a child’s life,” he said. “When you get to be a grandparent, you get to understand how exciting that can be.”
Board members David Steward and Doug Yaeger, retired chairman and CEO of Laclede Group, will co-chair a search committee to find Dollar’s successor by next spring. Weddle said the succession process will begin immediately after this year’s fundraising campaign in early November.
Steward said, “I hope we as volunteer leaders never take for granted what we have here. It’s special. And preserving that for future generations is going to be extremely important in this selection process.”