Valdosta Daily Times


October 21, 2012

Women in charge . . . and they mean business.


VALDOSTA — Cheryl Oliver

As the executive director of the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, Oliver is a role model in demonstrating that you can be a woman in charge and a woman of substance.

Oliver grew up in Quitman as the oldest of three children. She was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Georgia's theater program, but chose (with guidance from her parents) to stay close to home and attend Valdosta State College (now Valdosta State University).

After a year and a half of college, Oliver married and moved to Tallahassee, Fla. where she worked for the government for nine years and started a family with two children.

Oliver then moved back to South Georgia and began working at a job that would eventually lead to more than 20 years as editor of the employee magazine for Packaging Corporation of America.

"I was shocked to experience being widowed in 1997," said Oliver. "I soon decided that I needed a job with substance."

She is now married to husband Jack Oliver.

At the time she was widowed, Oliver said she felt that God orchestrated her path towards Kids' Chance, a small educational scholarship non-profit headquartered in Valdosta.

"I was named executive director in 1999 and continued in that position until the Kids' Chance Board of Directors decided, with my full support, to move the headquarters to Atlanta," said Oliver.

With the choice of letting the organization she loved go or move to Atlanta, Oliver decided to leave the non -profit.

"I said: Atlanta's a nice place to visit, but I don't want to live there," said Oliver.

Oliver was later approached by the Turner Center to apply for the position of interim director.

"After a lot of prayerful consideration, I applied, was hired as interim director in March 2008 and then was offered the permanent position three months later," said Oliver.

Four years later, Oliver continues to work in a facility and a job that she loves.

Oliver's choices and decisions throughout her life are a reflection of the empowerment embracing traditional roles for women and leading a successful work life.

"Because strong women, including my mother and sister and other mentors, have always been a part of my life, I never really felt that being female imposed limitations on my options," said Oliver.

According to Oliver, she "came of age" in the mid-1960's when America was in the throes of huge social change.

"When the feminist movement was making the everyday news and bras were being burned," said Oliver.

Though Oliver grew up in a small town, through books and her love of reading them, she knew that there was a world outside the traditional roles for women.

While Oliver points out that women still earn 70 percent less than men in comparable jobs in corporate America, women continue to make tremendous strides and are constantly demonstrating the ability to propel society toward a better existence.

"Why does there have to be a power struggle between the sexes?" Oliver asked. "Maybe if we'd concentrate more on improving the state of humanity, instead of fighting over who's doing the better job, we'd move things along."

Oliver's advice for young women: she quotes Mark Twain.

"The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why," wrote Twain.

According to Oliver, try to identify and focus on your primary areas of interest and then map out, as far as possible, the path to achieving your goals — short term and long term.

"Even if you're a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, as I am, you still need to zero in on a general purpose in life," said Oliver.

Oliver is a great example that in all realms of business, happiness and success can be achieved.

Aside from surrounding herself with great and caring people at the art center, Oliver center's her life around God.

"Maintain a connection to God and make it real," said Oliver. "Nurturing that relationship will help keep all others healthy."

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