Alston Dayton “Pete” Correll of Atlanta, Georgia, passed away Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at the age of 80.
A Georgia native, Pete was born in 1941 in Brunswick, Ga.
A true rags-to-riches life story would begin to unfold for Pete, who was an only child. His father owned Correll’s Men’s Shop in Brunswick for about a year before his untimely passing left the family broke. Pete, a young boy, and his mother, a very determined woman, ran the store until Pete left for college. His mother dedicated her life to preparing Pete to have an education. She joined the country club so Pete would have some exposure to men. He learned to play golf and upon graduation from Glynn Academy, earned a golf scholarship to Georgia Tech, where he studied chemical engineering.
After a year, Pete left Georgia Tech, moved to New York and went to work on the New York Stock Exchange as a runner for Merrill-Lynch.
After a year of nearly starving to death, he decided to return to college in Athens at the University of Georgia on an academic scholarship. He would meet his future wife, Ada Lee, while attending UGA. They married after they graduated and returned to Brunswick to work for JC Penney Company. One day, he told Ada Lee, “Honey, there has to be an easier way to make a living than this.” His mother had come from a small town called Covington, Virginia. She told them she had always wanted them to move to Covington and buy a house. Pete would find employment with West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company as a business analyst. He found his niche in life and was promoted to supervisor, but quickly realized he would need to return to school. While he was accepted at Harvard, he turned it down to accept a scholarship to the University of Maine.
Ada become a schoolteacher and quickly found a teaching position in Maine. They would remain there for 3 1/2 years and Pete would earn two graduate degrees, one in pulp and paper technology and one in chemical engineering.
Over the next 13 years, he and Ada Lee would move their family 11 times as Pete worked for multiple building products and paper companies. By the time he settled in Seattle, Washington, he and Ada Lee had a son and a daughter in elementary school.
Pete was offered a position with Mead Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, and basing his decision on the future of his children’s education, he chose to move his family to Dayton. Over time, he would take over their paper businesses as the senior vice president and continue to oversee their joint ventures and overseas acquisitions.
Pete always wanted to return to Georgia, and in 1988 accepted a position with Georgia Pacific.
Moving to Atlanta would be the best decision he and Ada Lee could ever make in their life. Their children were in college, so he and Ada Lee made the move that would launch Pete’s career with Georgia Pacific. Shortly after their move, Pete, introducing a totally new business and leadership technique within Georgia Pacific, was made president and in 1993, became chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, they would overcome the asbestos insulation crisis and successfully build Georgia-Pacific into a great company using the same simple premises that he had used for years, "I can get more done in 12 hours than most people can in eight”.
He lived by and instilled into the business arena that, “If you don’t understand something, just don’t do it. Because chances are, if you don’t understand, it is not real." The old story, “If it sounds too good to be true, most of the time it is.”
That pretty much is Pete Correll’s life. Simple, South Georgia boy, happened to be blessed with a mother who beat values into his whole life. He went off to conquer the world and was given ungodly opportunities because mentors along his career saw a leader in the making. Never forgetting those values, Pete always tried his best to return that favor. He tried to instill the fact that while skills are teachable, values and principles are not teachable. They are part of who you are as a person.
Pete considered himself very blessed in his life. He always said he had the influence of two dominant women in his life, his mother for the first 25 years and his beloved Ada Lee, for over 50 years.
As Gov. Kemp stated Thursday, “Pete Correll’s impact on our state will be felt for generations to come.”
He would continue to give back to his community and his beloved state of Georgia through his philanthropist work, his civic leadership. His work with the Woodruff Foundation, being instrumental in the revitalization of Grady Memorial Hospital, made him most proud. He also served on many non-profit boards, supported conservation of the coastline of his home state and made sure to give back to his hometown in Brunswick.
Pete, a lifelong Presbyterian, was a member of The First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.
Correll is survived by his wife, Ada Lee; their son, Alston and Kitty Correll; and daughter, Elizabeth Correll Richards and Ken Richards; grandchildren, Corey Richards, Katherine Correll, Jake Richards, Kaylee Correll and Pete Correll.
A celebration of life service was held 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, 1328 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30309 with the Rev. Tony Sundermeier and the Rev. JoAnna Adams officiating. He will be laid to rest at Westview Cemetery.
The service was livestreamed at https://www.firstpresatl.org/livestream.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in memory of Pete Correll to Grady Memorial Hospital (Grady Foundation) at www.gradyhealthfoundation.org; the University of Georgia (www.give.uga.edu); or First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta (www.firstpresatl.org).
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.hmpattersonOglethorpe.com for the Correll family.
Statesboro Herald, June 5, 2021
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