omething unexpected happened at Ada Lee Correll’s annual physical at Emory 10 years ago. “I came in for a cardiogram and ended up with open heart surgery the next day,” she says.
late Paul Seavey was doctor to both Ada Lee and her husband, Pete, chairman
and CEO of Georgia Pacific. Ada Lee remembers: “I told Dr. Seavey,
‘I can’t have surgery. I’m having a dinner party.’
He told me, ‘You’re not.’”
Correll describes Seavey as “someone you wanted to mind.” She cancelled her party, but she refused to abide by the physician’s request to call her husband, who was on his way to a meeting with the governor of Maine. It wasn’t stubbornness on her part. As the wife of a busy CEO, Ada Lee Correll is used to handling not only the daily chores but also the occasional emergencies on her own. Seavey made the call himself, reaching Pete Correll in the airport. Correll halted his trip to be by his wife’s side for what turned out to be triple bypass surgery, performed by cardiothoracic surgeon Ellis Jones.
Two years ago, it was Pete Correll’s medical crisis that brought the couple back to Emory. One Sunday night at home, Correll felt tingling sensations in his arm and began to sweat profusely. When he arrived in the emergency room, the heart attack was full-blown, and cardiologist Peter Block successfully performed angioplasty to minimize the damage. “Peter Block clearly saved his life just as Ellis Jones had saved mine,” says Ada Lee.
Just this past year, Pete was back at Emory to have a kidney removed after Emory internist Dave Roberts and urologist Chad Ritenour diagnosed a problem. Typical to form, Correll worked up to the last minute. A nurse had to take away his Blackberry as he tried to finish an email while being wheeled to the operating room.
Pete and Ada Lee are expressing their gratitude to Emory through service. They are the chairs of the Emory School of Medicine 150th anniversary gala. “When asked to chair the event, we didn’t even have to think about it,” says Ada Lee. “We just said yes. We see this as another way to pay our dues to society. It sounds corny, but it’s true.”
Both the Corrells are Georgia natives—she from Swainsboro and he from Brunswick. After the frequent moves required by Pete’s career, from Virginia to Maine, North Carolina to Arkansas, Seattle to Dayton, they returned to Georgia in 1990. Their two children put down roots here too. Their son, Alston Correll is a partner in the law firm Troutman Sanders, and their daughter, Elizabeth Richards, is following her mother’s example and raising children while also actively volunteering. With five grandchildren all in one city, Ada Lee considers herself lucky. She is as much a devoted grandmother as an expert fund-raiser for the causes close to her heart. (She even has a special tea every year for the people who listen to her brag on her grandchildren.)
By Pete’s reckoning, his wife has chaired “damn nearly every ball in Atlanta.” The heart ball she organized in Atlanta netted more than $1 million for the American Heart Association (AHA), a national record-breaking amount. Although Pete Correll frequently acts as co-chair, he gives the credit to the woman he married 41 years ago. “I just shut up and show up,” he says.
Between the Corrells are decades of volunteer service. Ada Lee is active with the AHA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Young Audiences, the Fox Theater, the Alliance Theater, the Atlanta Symphony, UNICEF, Leadership Atlanta, the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation—to name a few.
Pete, according to his wife, “has a service
list 2 miles long. He works on the national scene and at the state level to
benefit Georgia,” she says. He serves on the Medical Advisory Board of Emory’s medical school as well as boards for The Carter Center, the Commerce Club, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the Nature Conservancy, the
Woodruff Arts Center, and others. Like Ada Lee,
whose photo hangs in the United Way’s
community service gallery, Pete has many awards for his volunteer work, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle has named him among the most influential Atlantans for the past four years running.
Service provides more than just a connection to the community. Ada Lee, a former K-7 teacher, describes her volunteer activities as “a grand learning experience.” Pete sees the time spent on the Emory Medical Advisory Board the same way. “Quality health care is one of the most critical issues facing our country, our community, our company,” he says. “Serving on the Emory board is an opportunity to learn about medical education.”
His three years of service have reinforced Pete Correll’s belief that Emory “is a special place. Emory is a well-kept secret,” he says. “Even in Atlanta, it has a relatively low profile although it has touched the lives of so many.”
The Corrells want to raise that profile. “We feel that Emory University Hospital and the School of Medicine are such an important part of Atlanta,” says Ada Lee Correll, “and we want to sustain that and make it even better.”
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