NPPA Executive Director Greg Garneau Retires

By Donald R. Winslow

Photographs by Susie Post Rust

NPPA executive director Greg Garneau announces retirementDURHAM, NC– NPPA executive director Greg Garneau announced his retirement from the National Press Photographers Association today, effective August 31. Garneau, 59, has been NPPA’s executive director since August 1, 2001.

“I’m looking forward to some extended travel with my wife Carole to see my oldest son Will in Africa,” Garneau said today. “He’s currently serving in the Peace Corps there. We’re hoping to include our other son Jeff for part of this trip, his college schedule permitting. And after the trip, I have several options open to me."

“Greg has been a rock for the NPPA over the past five years,” NPPA president Alicia Wagner Calzada said today. “He has guided us with grace and dignity through enormous challenges, from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, and the many struggles in between, including the creation of NPPA’s Best Of Photojournalism contest and the build up of our presence on the Web. He will be a tough act to follow as he leaves behind a lasting legacy of excellence, financial stability, and a talented staff, which he has pulled together and nurtured."

“Greg is a true friend to the NPPA and his leadership will be sorely missed. We are happy for Greg and the exciting plans he has for retirement,” Calzada said.

“The NPPA has an outstanding group of employees – just five in total – and it’s been a pleasure to work with them," Garneau said. "Mindy Hutchison, Stephen Sample, Jared Haworth, Thomas Kenniff, and Donald Winslow have worked extremely hard to raise the profile of the organization and to keep it moving in the right direction. Our magazine, Web site, member benefits, and contest are but a few examples of their excellent and ongoing contributions."

Garneau’s start at the NPPA came at a challenging time for America and for its photojournalists. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, happened a little more than five weeks after he assumed the role of executive director. “During that crisis – one that impacted the entire membership in some important way – the most important role the staff played was to serve as a communications hub. But our computer systems were very unreliable. By great good luck they stayed ‘up’ for several days and we limped through. Much of what the staff has done since 9/11 has been to try to improve our communications capabilities.

“In those days we did not have the eMail addresses of members, the Web site was almost completely static, and much of what we had in the member database lacked accuracy. Now, five years later, we can do mass eMails, bulk USPS mailings at a discount, continuously update the Web site, and last but not least we can write and update news stories about photojournalism in a way that does credit to an association of professional journalists.”

During Garneau’s five-year tenure, NPPA created and launched its own annual photography contest. He came into the job when NPPA’s split with the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the annual Pictures of the Year competition was already in progress. “The Best of Photojournalism Committee – Keith Jenkins, Joe Elbert, Harry Walker, Terry Eiler, Clyde Mueller, Deanne Fitzmaurice, Kenny Irby, and Al Tompkins – exemplify the best there is in the profession,” Garneau said. “Their participation in this endeavor moves the whole art of visual storytelling forward. I will very much miss working with them and learning from them.”

Garneau graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, where he grew up. “I became independent at a very early age and worked my way through college. I ran the valet parking at The Music Center in Los Angeles. Dorothy Chandler – whose family owned the Los Angeles Times, for whom one of the theaters was named – made sure that some of the jobs were set aside for young people working their way through school,” Garneau remembers.

“I wanted to be a school teacher at that time because my sixth grade teacher – a former photographer – had taken an interest in me, and by great good luck I had him again as my U.S. history teacher in high school. I wanted to be like him; he was an early Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. When we were in elementary school, around 1957, he taught us photography using Speed Graphic and Rolleiflex cameras, using the darkroom at the local city college to develop film and enlarge our pictures. It was an educational experiment and he was a wonderful teacher back in a time when schooling meant sitting at the same desk all day and longing for (or surviving) what was called recess (on an asphalt playground).”

Garneau’s journey to a steward’s role with the NPPA began many years ago when he was first a classroom teacher and then later a school administrator. After finishing graduate school at Columbia University in New York City, he worked as a business executive. “I ran the graveyard shift at MetPath in Teterboro, New Jersey, which – at the time – was the world’s largest medical laboratory. We processed 35,000 individual patients and performed hundreds of thousands of tests in an eight-hour shift.

“Later I spent time in operations at Bankers Trust at 16 Wall Street and worked as the Financial Officer at Anthology Film Archives. I liked consulting best, however, and did assignments in New York that ranged from an electronic network for industrial suppliers to assisting in the production of television commercials at Astoria Film Studios for Apple Computer and IBM.”

Garneau came to North Carolina after 11 years in New York and became the comptroller of a grocery company that was purchased by the Whole Foods chain. Later, he was the acting treasurer for the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company.

After Liggett, he returned to business consulting and over the next nine years successfully completed more than three dozen assignments, for organizations including Smart Start (a North Carolina governor’s initiative to improve child care); Divi Resorts (a hotel and gaming company); Pergo (the flooring company); and an international organization that licenses alcohol and drug abuse counselors. Garneau frequently served in the role of interim CFO or CEO as these firms launched and established themselves.

Garneau also worked as an unpaid volunteer member of Habitat for Humanity and on various committees of their board, and served as treasurer and later as board president. He’s also served as a volunteer in various fundraising capacities for the Carolina Friends School (where he taught starting in 1971 and served as an administrator, and where both of his sons went to school). He also served as a volunteer at El Centro Hispano in Durham in the early days, and says he may do some more volunteering there in the future.

“Last year Habitat called me back to conduct a search for a new executive director for them. I was pleased that they sounded me out initially for the position, but even happier with the quality of the person that we eventually recruited,” he said. “The Habitat search committee was great to work with. I really enjoyed that volunteer job, and the whole experience got me thinking about a change.”

Included in Garneau’s travel plans to spend time with his sons are the hopes of being able to work with them on a few of their current projects. “Will, my oldest son, is a recent graduate of Yale University with a degree in English. He is working as a schoolteacher in a remote part of Africa and has 53 students in his class. He wants to improve village life and wants some help building a well to provide a steady supply of clean water for drinking and agricultural use. The well will provide a source of new jobs in a place where high unemployment is the norm.” Garneau has already spent some time helping Will research several types of wells that will work best in that region. “And he’s also connected with an NGO that is helping to make personal computers more broadly available there.

“Jeff, my younger son, is currently enrolled at Hampshire College. He just got an A+ in Chinese. He loves Asian languages and is taking Japanese there too. He loves computers and electronics and lately has been building video games out of parts from old games in his classes.”

In NPPA's 60 year history there have only been eight people who have led the national organization in an administrative capacity. From the founding of NPPA in 1946, Joseph Costa was the chairman of the board until 1965. Lester A. Linck was the membership secretary from 1956 through 1961 and Nelson H. Tiffany performed the same duties from 1961 through 1963. Beginning in 1957, Charles H. Cooper from The Durham Sun served as a volunteer and was the insurance administrator until 1963, and then the membership director in the mid-1960s, and became the executive secretary in 1965. Cooper served as the executive secretary until 1982, when he was named executive director. Cooper retired in 1997 and Ellen LoCurto was hired as executive director, leaving after a year. Allen Dew was named chief operating officer in 1998, and Bradley Wilson replaced him when he started as executive director in 1999. Garneau was hired as executive director in August 2001.