The Jewish concept of “tikkun olam” is a call to “repair the world.” Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, cites this phrase as inspiration for her chosen careers—first in journalism and then, thanks to what she calls “an accident of timing and good fortune,” philanthropy. She worked at Miami’s prestigious Knight Foundation for more than a decade before accepting, in 2004, the helm of the charitable enterprise of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank.
Since then, there have been few Atlantans with greater capacity to influence and change the city. McPhee oversees one of the Southeast’s largest family foundations, which has awarded almost $400 million in grants since its 1995 inception, along with the giving programs of Blank’s other businesses, including the Atlanta Falcons. The foundation tackles a broad array of issues, including education, green spaces, the arts, and community improvement. The Atlanta BeltLine, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and Georgia Organics’ Farm to School program are just a few among thousands of beneficiaries.
In addition to serving as president of the foundation, McPhee is vice president for government affairs for the Falcons. In that role, she worked with state and local officials during the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. She also worked closely with the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, which aims to rejuvenate the area around the stadium. “At the time the stadium was just a glimmer in his eye, Arthur was very adamant that we were not going to build an iconic stadium on one side of Northside Drive and have these impoverished neighborhoods on the other,” she says.
Pivoting between diverse projects and causes suits McPhee, who spends her spare time with her six-year-old granddaughter and relaxing at her home at Serenbe. “One of the things I love is that there is no typical day. I am not at all change averse,” she says.