A Hilton Head Island nonprofit organization will take another stab next year at drawing visitors to the island for an intellectual exchange -- minus an executive director.
Jack Alderman "will end his (nearly two-year) tour of duty" as Hilton Head Island Institute's first director on Dec. 31, according to a letter institute chairman Allen Ward sent to supporters Thursday.
"It has been Jack's plan to limit his tenure from the outset," Ward wrote. "His dedication, his hard work, strategic vision, consummate attention to detail and passion for making Hilton Head a better place were all critical elements in bringing our programs into reality."
The institute's board of directors hasn't decided if it will hire a replacement, Ward said Friday.
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"We're working with consultants on a strategic plan and will wait until that process is finished to see what senior leadership we'll need," he said.
Alderman said Friday he's optimistic about the institute's future.
"The plan always was for me to help get things started and move on to more permanent leadership over time," he said. "Now was good time to leave as it works on strategies for future programming, and I was glad I could contribute to the start of something I feel will be important to the island over time. I'm very supportive and excited about what the institute is working towards."
Town Council, though, earlier this month denied the institute's request for grant money to pay for planned 2014 events.
Council, which last year awarded the institute $25,000, said its lecture and panel series -- ImagiNATION -- has potential. However, it doesn't warrant additional funding because it is an unproven driver of tourism.
The series, held for the first time in October, was shortened from a week or more to three days because of lukewarm interest. About 200 to 225 people attended each day; fewer than the 300 people organizers were expecting and much lower than the 500 to1,000 initially envisioned, Alderman said.
The low turnout indicates the event needs better marketing and direction, council members said.
The series aimed to raise the island's profile as a hub for intellectual thought and new ideas. Each day of the ImagiNATION series focused on a specific topic, such as education, technology and creativity. Speakers included former Facebook marketing head Randi Zuckerberg, sister of company founder Mark Zuckerberg; education expert Tony Wagner; William Paul Young, who wrote the spiritual novel "The Shack"; and motivational speaker and former NFL quarterback Tom Flick.
The institute also conducted a two-part fall "Calibogue Series" with a focus on the island's environment, history and Gullah heritage. It also hosted a presentation by Richard Hutton, who has produced several critically acclaimed documentaries, as well as a light-hearted play, "The Complete History of Hilton Head for Morons."
"There were a number of learning lessons, which we have identified and taken to heart," Ward wrote in his letter. "We have also looked hard at just what the right niche for the institute might be."
The institute was planning to produce four separate events in 2014, culminating in a four-day, year-end event, according to its application to the town for grant money. Nothing, though, has been decided, Ward said.
"We may have an event similar to ImagiNATION, but it may be different," he said. "We're not ready to announce that for sure yet. What we do know is that we need a more focused message that we feel will lead to more focused programming that will lead to broader audience appeal and attract corporate sponsorship.
"We were pretty broad in our offerings this year to test the market a bit for what works on Hilton Head ... and have a much better feel for that. We hope to have a plan within 30 days."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.