First and foremost, Don Koonce is an award-winning historian. At his marketing and corporate communications company, FernCreek Creative, Inc., he directs and produces videos that chronicle bygone communities, war battles and NASA missions. He also carries the title of author, veteran Navy pilot, nonprofit board leader and Textile Crescent tour guide, among others. Had it not been for one particularly difficult course that led him to reevaluate his passion and change his major, you would likely know Don as a prominent doctor.
Don has the unique distinction to represent LG Classes 4 and 24. His first term was short-lived because he missed too many class days (although working on a video project for the Chamber at the time, it did not earn him a pass). Don’s second go-round was a golden opportunity to join an illustrious group of established leaders, peers he had already partnered with to help develop the Leadership Greenville program. Their class project - planning Falls Park and the Liberty Bridge.
Don has been fortunate to build relationships and rub elbows with some of Greenville’s most esteemed leaders, such as Mayor Knox White, Buck Mickel, Minor Shaw, Merl Code and George Fletcher. Being in the company of such people and the late Mayor Max Heller (his mentor), Don witnessed firsthand how "leadership affects the prospects and prosperity of a community." As a team player, he contributed to Greenville's can-do attitude and admires that our town doesn't sit around and complain, we do things.
Having lived in Greenville for over 40 years (he's a transplant from Atlanta, by way of the Citadel in Charleston, by way of his birthplace, Wilmington, NC), Don is deeply committed to this town and its prosperity. One nonprofit agency dear to him is Upstate Warrior Solution, where he serves as a Marketing Director. Don't worry about Don overcommitting though. He applies the lesson his wife, BJ, taught him. She's an actress and voice talent who has coached him to form the word, 'No.'
When asked about Greenville's growth, Don expressed that it's important we grow the right way, and not become overgrown and out of control like nearby metropolitan areas. One negative aspect he sees bundled with our astounding growth is gentrification, and cautions that we must consider the people affected before we act. "It's not so much what we build, but how we grow," he advises.
"LG opens the door to opportunities to learn," Don revealed. He finds the program to be one of Greenville's greatest resources because participants receive a clear overview of Greenville's needs, the character of our community and why leadership is so important. Participants learn how they can plug in to help Greenville grow and prosper. On a personal note, LG made Don a better person by helping him understand people and what makes Greenville tick. He also gained wonderful friends. And on a practical note, being in the program introduced him to many clients who helped grow his business.
Don's advice to LG Class 44, "Open your eyes and ears. It's a mistake to limit your experience to your profession and/or interest - if you are going to be a leader in this community, you have to understand everything and how everything works." He firmly believes that your class involvement and participation in extracurricular activities "will benefit you business-wise and emotionally down the road."
Thanks to Lisa Maronie (LG38 Freelance Writer, Prose Communications) for submitting this LGA Spotlight.