The Visionary: Michael Kay

April 28, 2023

The Visionary: Michael Kay

If you closed your eyes and dreamed a little and imagined five years out from now, what would success look like? How would you know it? And how would it make you feel?” -Michael Kay (1940-2023)

Michael Kay, business leader, strategic visionary, philanthropist, and former board chair, said these words to former CEO Gary Miller when discussing the 2016 Capital Campaign to expand the JF&CS campus.

“That was the 'Michael Technique'. His humility was the foundation of his wisdom. His quiet observations of the present fed his gift for envisioning the future. He would say ‘Be daring, be bold, strive to be best in class',” said Gary.

Michael and Ann Kay moved to Atlanta in 1980. He was “fierce in his love for his adopted city, and he worked to make it more equitable and empathetic. He was equally committed to Jewish Atlanta,” recalled Eric Robbins, CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta (JFGA).

Michael’s beloved wife, Ann, said he “was a pro at listening to people. He had a very big heart, and causes were very important to him — giving back to the community and to those less fortunate.”

JF&CS was gifted with his leadership, innovative ideas, and his ability to see possibilities. Michael chaired the board from 1990-1991 and continued to help with other projects and leadership roles the rest of his life. In 2016, Ann and Michael were honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign that resulted in our beautiful, expanded campus and new space for the innovative IndependenceWORKS building that now houses the Community Access Group of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services.

JF&CS was only one of many organizations that Michael supported with his time, talent, and treasure. He chaired the Jewish Community Legacy Project and was a past board chair for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. He served on the boards of The Weber School, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, as well as many other organizations. In 2021, Michael Kay was honored with JFGA's Lifetime of Achievement Award for 2019-2020, honoring the breadth and depth of his leadership.

Past Board Chair and close friend Steve Berman recalled the passion and dedication that Michael brought to each project.

"Once on board, (he was) 110% committed to the success of the project. Michael had many projects in Atlanta and if you were fortunate enough to have him on board you would have the best advocate and most challenging colleague you could find in Atlanta,” he said.

 Terri Bonoff, CEO of JF&CS, took office in the summer of 2019, and remembers how Michael volunteered first to help with the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center.

“While attending the Past Presidents luncheon, Michael heard me speak about our desire to expand the scope of practice to address the mental health and well-being challenges of children, teens, and families. He was the first in! He stood up and provided money for a planning grant. He continued to invest in the Center as it was designed and launched, helping us with strategy and support along the way. Michael was a distinguished and esteemed advisor to me.  I learned greatly from the time we spent together, and his memory is truly a blessing to me,” she said.

Michael and Ann helped develop the Kay Family Leadership Program.

"Leadership is so important," she said. "It was the best way to learn about the agency, and discover how you wanted to be part of it," said Ann.

"I am very proud of Michael's legacy. I was always amazed about how his mind works. He had an amazing way to figure things out. He was loving, caring and thoughtful and really wanted to help people help themselves. He got a lot of joy out of seeing the agency thrive," she said.

“Michael’s indelible mark on JF&CS helped transform it into a powerful community agency leader,” said Gary.

Michael will be greatly missed, but his JF&CS legacy lives on in Kay Family Leadership, IndependenceWORKS, and throughout the agency.