From the Foreign Affairs Seminar to the World Affairs Council Hilton Head
World Affairs Council Hilton Head was incorporated in 2004. Actually, the Council grew out of the Foreign Affairs Seminar (FAS) founded in 1981, when a small group of like-minded islanders began meeting at the Hilton Head Public Library. The organization drew on its members to present topics of interest and to lead discussions regarding current events and media coverage of foreign policy issues.
The original membership of FAS, most of whom were recently retired from government service, the military, international business, or university professorships grew to over 50 members within three years.
FAS soon outgrew its space at the Library and moved to Palmetto Electric’s community room in 1989. It was then that Alex Davit joined Vince Heyman, former CIA officer, as co-director.
By 1991, the membership had once more outgrown its space and was invited to meet at Congregation Beth Yam. In the first year after the move the membership exceeded 100 and grew to 160 members in the next three years. The Seminar met the challenge of expanding expectations of a growing membership with consistent dedication to excellence in programming.
In 1992 Fred Drake, a retired international businessman, replaced Alex Davit as co-director and was elected President the following year. Fred added a much appreciated international business and economic dimension to FAS as the economic aspects in foreign affairs were becoming as important as political and military matters. Fred served as President for three years.
In 1996 Bill Baraclough succeeded Fred Drake as President of the Seminar. Bill served at the Presidential desk for six years with Terry Vermilye joining him as Vice President in 2000.
Terry Vermilye began his tenure as President in 2002. When membership grew to 400 he negotiated meeting space with the Main Street Theater and guided the process of affiliation with the World Affairs Councils of America and incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
When Kent Harrington became President in 2006 the Council was governed by 14 directors, all of whom were working members. The Council had grown to 400 members with a wait list of 400. The by-laws were revised to create standing committees to manage all aspects of the organization and the staff position of Administrative Director was created.
In the summer of 2007, the Council began fulfilling its community outreach mission by offering foreign policy talks by Council members in a Summer Forum open to members, guests and non-members.
Neil Funnell became president in 2009. Under his leadership the Council moved its speaker meetings to the First Presbyterian Church on William Hilton Parkway. The move provided ample space for new members and wait-listed applicants. Both the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions program and the Council’s Fall Forum study group for members was developed. Membership had grown to more than 800 by the time of Neil’s retirement in 2011.
In 2011, Don Ferguson served briefly as President and has since served on the Program Committee. Both Don and Doris Ferguson serve along with 70 volunteers who now facilitate the Council’s reputation for hospitality at fourteen speaker meetings a year and Council events.
In 2012, Director Blaine Lotz stepped into the Presidency. He initiated educational outreach as a priority of his Presidency. Blaine led the Council’s expansion of the Great Decisions program and established a Model UN program. The first Academic WorldQuest (AWQ) competition for high schools in the Beaufort Country School District was held in 2012. Since, the Council has sponsored the AWQ winner’s participation in both the 2013 and 2014 national competitions in Washington, DC.
In Blaine’s tenure, creating the position of Administrative Director has evolved into the position of Executive Director. In that position Joan Apple Lemoine now facilitates the work of the Board of Directors, all standing committees and oversees compliance issues of the corporation.
Going forward, the World Affairs Council Hilton Head continues to benefit from the vision of its original founders, its ongoing dedicated leadership and the contributions of an engaged membership to make the Council the outstanding asset that it is in the larger community of Hilton Head Island.
In 2015 Lee Wilwerding began his tenure as president of World Affairs Council Hilton Head.