When I met George Knight, he was already a national leader in affordable housing. I would say he was a giant in the field, but that suggests a sort of towering presence that would have made him wince.
George was a fairly new member of Volunteers of America's board of directors when I began as president almost 15 years ago. He was serving as president of Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., a consuming position in a great organization, offering enough fulfillment for anyone committed to delivering affordable housing. But he remained on our board for the full nine years our bylaws permit, and then agreed to serve on a separate board focused on health care and housing, which he was chairing at the time of his death.
We knew we were privileged to have George's expertise in housing available to us. Whether his profound understanding of housing finance and the relevant political environment came from intuition or study, it was a gift.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. was assisting five times as many families with affordable housing at the end of his 10-year leadership as at the beginning. Volunteers of America's mission in housing also reached a scale it would not have today but for George's imprint.
We acknowledged George's contributions to affordable housing when he was with us. Only now, however, on reflection, do I realize I never thanked him for his unassuming style of leadership. George made certain that it was never about him, but about those who needed housing. It was never about awards, but about results. And at the end, it was never about regret, but about grace.
Charles W. Gould is president and CEO of Volunteers of America, Inc.