The Hilton Head Sun
By Dean Rowland
They think that life on Hilton Head Island and the surrounding area can be even better than it is now. They also think that ideas can form roots as plans of action to make dreams happen.
“They” are the seven-member board of directors and executive director of the Hilton Head Island Institute, and they’re been doing a lot of thinking since being incorporated as a non-profit in 2012.
The group has meeting for “thousands of hours” since then, according to Institute president Allen Ward, brainstorming on ways to enrich the quality of life here and now and for future generations by partnering with area residents, business professionals, clubs and organizations. The goal is to turn their torch of ideas into meaningful realities for improving the overall well-being and vibrancy of local communities and their residents.
“Our role is focused on dialog, bringing folks together to discuss issues, looking in an open-minded way at what those issues are and what the solutions might be,” said Institute executive director Jack Alderman, a 23-year island resident and former executive with Union Camp.
Scheduled on Sept. 12 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina is a lecture by documentary producer Robert Hutton, who will discuss the “world of imagination.”
The two-part Calibogue Series on Oct. 7 and 8 will highlight the history of Hilton Head Island and the unique environment of the Lowcountry.
The Institute’s “imagiNATION 2013,” a four-day series to encourage dialog and sharing of ideas, is scheduled for Oct. 23-26 at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn Plantation.
Lectures, presentations, debates, and panel discussions will take place at the tent village and feature pioneers in technology, literature and education as keynote speakers: Facebook visionary Randi Zuckerberg; “The Shack” author William Paul Young; and educational expert Tony Wagner.
Alderman said the Institute hopes to attract 1,000 attendees that will take the ideas and intellectual visions presented and incorporate them into their own lives and communities.
“We want to create environments to engage people with one another,” said Ward, who is president of Ward Edwards, a civil engineering and land development consulting firm in Bluffton and Port Royal. “We’re starting with events to call on people to get clarity and perspective on important topics.”
What Alderman and Ward strive to achieve with “imagiNATION 2013” was conceived in late 2010 following a task force convened by Mayor Drew Laughlin to “report on the island’s future... and what would be needed for the future vitality and vibrancy of the Hilton Head community and region,” said Alderman.
The report included 11 action items, one of which was the formation of the Institute to “focus on intellectual and cultural pursuits.”
The Greater Island Council then took the task force’s recommendations in 2011 and began “advancing and identifying the goals.” Ward said, “believing that the Institute idea might have legs on Hilton Head.”
With $2,500 seed money, the Institute was born the following year. Three grants totaling $92,500 and $500,000 in individual pledges soon followed, Alderman said.
“People love Hilton Head Island,” Ward said. “They want to do what makes the community better... Ultimately, if you love Hilton Head Island, you are the Hilton Head Institute. The Institute is the steward of the culture of this place as it develops.”
“We’re building on the legacy that been here for a long time,” Alderman added. “We want to make all the other community organizations stronger with what we’re doing.”
For more information about these lectures and other activities, visit www.hiltonheadislandinstitute.org.
Dean Rowland, a senior editor and freelance writer for 30 years, lives in Bluffton.