We Are Koch - Curly Dossman

This year is a special milestone for one remarkable man at Georgia-Pacific headquarters in Atlanta. It was two decades ago that Curley Dossman joined the company to help the business improve as a corporate citizen in local communities. Despite his noteworthy anniversary, Curley isn’t keeping track of years. His focus is on the increased opportunities that the company is now providing for thousands of its neighbors.

“When I first came to GP, it had a neutral position in the community. People saw this big building and didn’t know about our corporate and social responsibility efforts,” said Curley. Equipped with a strong desire to help others reach their potential, he quickly put Georgia-Pacific’s resources to work in the community, and increased his leadership role in the process. It took less than 12 months before Curley was named president of the GP Foundation, a role that he still holds today.

“It’s gratifying to witness the life-changing impact a company can have when it effectively addresses crucial community needs. One of the early initiatives that I was involved with at Georgia-Pacific was to adopt the M. Agnes Jones Elementary School in Atlanta,” said Curley. “We made infrastructure investments, including a computer lab, and provided one-on-one tutoring by employees. Those efforts have made a difference for about 1,650 youth over the last 17 years. When we started in 1997, only 24 percent of the students were meeting state standards. Today that number stands at 94 percent.”

Curley’s inspiration comes from his own upbringing. “I grew up in a small town in Louisiana. My parents, grandfather and aunt taught me at an early age about the importance of education and giving back. It was part of my DNA. They were always working with community groups and organizations, building relationships. People knew to call them if they were ever in need. Growing up in that environment, I saw the value of being engaged in civic and political activity.”

As a student, Curley had aspirations of becoming an attorney. This was reinforced at Morehouse College, where he received an internship from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist with urban planning. After earning a law degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, he worked for the Louisiana governor’s office, and then for a U.S. senator. Curley witnessed firsthand how laws are made, and the impact they have on individuals and society.

He now shares his knowledge with a new generation of leaders as national chairman and mentor for the 100 Black Men of America organization. Like the GP Foundation, the nonprofit group’s mission is to improve the quality of life within local communities, enhancing educational and economic opportunities. “I want to be a flag-waver for those who have given so much to me. This is my opportunity to help students achieve their educational goals, and experience long-term success.”

Ten years ago, when it was announced that Koch was acquiring Georgia-Pacific, Curley and other members of the GP Foundation were anxious to learn how new ownership would affect the social equity that they had worked so hard to build. Would there still be a strong emphasis on corporate citizenship? The foundation had previously operated within four areas of philanthropy and community affairs: Education, Environment, Enrichment of Community, and Employees.

“After the acquisition, we only changed one E. ‘Employees’ became ‘Entrepreneurship,’ which is inclusive of our employees. It was good to see that we were in philosophical alignment and shared the same leadership values.”

As a Koch company, Georgia-Pacific’s support for the “4 E’s” has now extended into middle and high schools through Youth Entrepreneurs® Georgia. The organization prepares students to think like entrepreneurs so they can start their own businesses or become successful employees. During the last eight years, more than 1,700 local youth have participated in the program.

"Corporations across the nation have a major stake in the viability of the communities where they do business," said Curley. “Our future is tied to the communities where our employees and customers live and work. It behooves us to be concerned about the well-being of society as a whole. Many people spend a lot of time chasing professional success, but as one of my mentors said, ‘You have to move from success to significance.’ Use your talent and resources to make a significant impact on other people’s lives.”