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Art Callaham: Herald-Mail's Person of the Year for 2002

January 02, 2003

It's a cinch that singer-songwriter Mac Davis, who released "It's Hard to be Humble" in 1984, never met Art Callaham, executive director of Greater Hagerstown Committee. Callaham, The Herald-Mail's Person of the Year for 2002, takes no bows for his many accomplishments, preferring to credit his family, friends and associates.

In an interview that appears on Page One of today's paper, Callaham candidly reveals some things that many other businesspeople would not, like the fact that he flunked out of college on his first try because he didn't take it seriously.

A stint in the Army, including duty in Vietnam, changed that attitude. While in the service he met his wife of 31 years, Ruth Anne, who he calls his inspiration, his motivation and his comfort in time of need.

Callaham needed some comfort after the United Way campaign of 2001, which he served as chairman. Confident he and the agency's volunteers could reach the $1.8 million goal, he was brought up short after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted many local givers to donate to New York relief efforts instead.

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Callaham didn't shrug it off as an unfortunate twist of fate or fault the community. Instead, he blamed himself and was surprised when volunteers gave him a special award for leading a campaign under difficult circumstances.

That job was in addition to his regular duties as director of Greater Hagerstown, an organization of local CEOs, which among other things, lobbies for projects like the widening of Interstate 81. It is a group of very successful people who have strong opinions about what should happen locally. And yet its members say Callaham keeps the debate on track and moving in a positive direction.

He also serves on a number of other civic boards, including the Hagerstown-Washington County Alumni Association, but also acts as the financial guardian for a disabled man on Social Security.

His willingness to credit others and minimize his own role in considerable accomplishments call to mind a previous Herald-Mail winner, Mike Callas, who called Callaham "the finest executive director I have ever worked with." That's high praise from a good person and one more reason why Art Callaham was chosen as The Herald-Mail's Person of the Year for 2002.

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