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Woodruff Arts Center Announces New President & CEO

Virginia Hepner to lead the Southeast’s largest visual and performing arts center

Atlanta financial executive and civic leader Virginia Hepner has been elected president and chief executive officer of the , succeeding Joe Bankoff who is retiring after six years of leadership at the Center. Hepner is a former senior officer of Wachovia Bank and a long-time leader in metropolitan Atlanta arts and culture.

The Center’s Board of Trustees Monday unanimously approved the recommendation from a search committee that was chaired by trustee Doug Hertz and included the Center’s four division chairs.

“We are fortunate and delighted to have Virginia as our new president,” Larry Gellerstedt III, chairman of the Woodruff Arts Center Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Joe has set a high bar for leadership, and we know from first-hand experience that Virginia is more than up to the challenge.”

Hepner served as interim director for Young Audiences, which is a division of the Woodruff Arts Center, from October 2010 to August 2011. In this capacity she led operations and advanced arts education across the Center’s other divisions: the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and High Museum. In 2009 she was interim executive director for the Atlanta Ballet, where she launched a strategic planning effort and oversaw the completion of an $11 million headquarters facility.

During a 25-year career at Wachovia she rose to executive president and senior manager of U.S. Corporate Finance. Currently she is a strategic business consultant, a partner in a private real estate investment entity and a director of State Bank & Trust Company and State Bank Financial Corporation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Business Administration at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.  

“I am grateful for the board’s support and determined to reward its confidence,” Hepner said in a press release. “I am also indebted to Joe for advancing the Center’s vision, governance and outreach, among other achievements, all of which are key as we approach our second half-century.”

Hepner’s community leadership presently includes service on the boards of The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, The Paideia School and its Endowment Board, and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. She is a member of the Service Advisory Board for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the Alliance Theatre Advisory Board, the Emory University Board of Visitors and the International Women’s Forum.

Previously she chaired the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition and the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund Advisory Board, served as a trustee of Theater of the Stars and as an Atlanta Advisory Board member of the Savannah College of Art and Design. She was a member of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s Task Force on public funding for the arts, and received the mayor’s Phoenix Award for community leadership. She co-chaired the Atlanta Firms Committee of the Woodruff Arts Center Campaign. 

Bankoff became President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodruff Arts Center in September 2006. Among organizational achievements during his tenure are a comprehensive strategic plan, a revised Midtown campus master plan, creation of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, a restructured finance and governance structure, and greatly expanded arts and education outreach.

“Joe has left a valuable legacy and we deeply appreciate his tireless service, especially in the difficult economic circumstances of the past few years,” Gellerstedt said in the press release. 

Said Bankoff, “It has been a real privilege to work with such committed and talented artists, volunteers and staff in the leadership of the Woodruff Arts Center and its divisions. The Center is a cherished part of Atlanta’s history and aspirations. It has provided not only great art and education, but was the start of the remake of Atlanta as a center of creativity. The selection of Virginia Hepner, who has provided exceptional leadership in both banking and various arts organizations, is perfect to further advance the Woodruff Center’s rich artistic, educational, and economic and cultural value.”  

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