Tuesday, April 16, 2024
[vc_custom_heading text=”Nonprofits & Philanthropies” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left”]

Industry consolidation has left many North Carolina cities with fewer corporate executives empowered to offer civic leadership. In their place, leaders of nonprofit groups such as the Foundation For The Carolinas in Charlotte and Asheville’s Dogwood Health Trust are taking key roles in guiding local communities. Proceeds from the tobacco industry continue to fill a philanthropic duty in the state through the Duke Endowment and Reynolds family-related foundations.

[vc_custom_heading text=”ELIZABETH BRAZAS”][vc_custom_heading text=”president, CEO | Community Foundation of Western North Carolina” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


A Davidson College and University of South Carolina School of Law graduate, Brazas oversees more than $15 million of annual charitable giving. She previously worked in the financial-services industry for Wachovia, Deloitte and Morgan Stanley.

[vc_custom_heading text=”AMY OLIVER COOKE”][vc_custom_heading text=”CEO | The John Locke Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The supporter of free markets and limited government took her post in 2019 after leading a similar public policy group in Denver. Her husband, John, is a Colorado state senator. Cooke, 57,  has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and a master’s from the University of Northern Colorado.

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First job: Teaching swimming lessons

Employer’s distinction: We promote freedom, so that every person has the opportunity to thrive. 

North Carolina’s challenge: The need to educate recent transplants on the policies that have made our state such an attractive place to live. Our legislative culture of fiscal responsibility, low tax burdens and prudent spending have created an attractive economic environment.

Best advice: A dear friend offered wise counsel regarding being a woman in the workplace: “Be a lady, not a prude.”

Favorite recent book: Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger

Favorite music: Country and AM hits from the 1960s and 1970s

Something surprising: I collect old cookbooks, but I rarely cook.


[vc_custom_heading text=”LAURA GERALD”][vc_custom_heading text=”president | Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Gerald has led the $530 million asset trust since 2016. After earning a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s in public health from Harvard, she was a pediatrician in Robeson County for nine years. She is a former state health director.

[vc_custom_heading text=”RICK GLAZIER”][vc_custom_heading text=”executive director | North Carolina Justice Center” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


A Penn State University and Wake Forest University School of Law graduate, Glazier joined the nonprofit in 2015 after 13 years as a Democratic state representative. He’s a former chair of the Cumberland County school board. The center’s mission to promote economic and social justice.

[vc_custom_heading text=”FRANKLIN GRAHAM”][vc_custom_heading text=”president, CEO | Samaritan’s Purse” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The Appalachian State University graduate has become an evangelical leader and missionary, following the path of his father. Graham has led the relief group since 1979 and is also CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is expanding its Charlotte museum. Samaritan’s Purse has assets of more than $750 million.

[vc_custom_heading text=”MAURICE “MO” GREEN”][vc_custom_heading text=”executive director | Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Green, 54, who has bachelor’s and law degrees from Duke University, came to the private family foundation in 2016. He’d spent the previous seven years as superintendent of Guilford County Schools. The foundation has invested more than $650 million since its start in 1936. It has assets of more than $300 million.

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Favorite passions: Reading and watching sports

Favorite recent book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi   

Favorite music: R&B


[vc_custom_heading text=”BRIAN HAMILTON”][vc_custom_heading text=”Founder | Brian Hamilton Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Since selling his financial software firm Sageworks to Accel-KKR in 2018, Hamilton, 57, has focused on helping build his Inmates to Entrepreneurs nonprofit. His investment firm acquired a Canadian videoconferencing company in January.

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First job: Landscaping at age 5

North Carolina’s challenge: Parity of economic and educational opportunities. We don’t pay enough attention to those in need.   

Best advice: Treat people the way you want to be treated. 

Proud family accomplishment: My boys are good people. 

Favorite passion: Fishing in the Gulf Stream   

Person you admire: Abraham Lincoln


[vc_custom_heading text=”MARY HOLMES”][vc_custom_heading text=”executive director | Cumberland Community Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The foundation she’s led since 1997 topped $100 million in assets last year, which board President Kelly Puryear called a key community milestone. Holmes was a banker before joining the organization. She has a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and a UNC Chapel Hill MBA.

[vc_custom_heading text=”THOMAS LAWRENCE”][vc_custom_heading text=”president | The Leon Levine Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The foundation formed in 1980 by the Family Dollar retail chain founder is among Charlotte’s most active philanthropies supporting education, health care, human services and Jewish values. Lawrence is a University of Richmond graduate who joined Leon Levine’s family office and the foundation in 2002. 

[vc_custom_heading text=”PAUL LESSARD”][vc_custom_heading text=”president | High Point Community Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]

High Point

Lessard was hired as the founding president in 1998 and has overseen growth in assets from $5 million to more than $120 million. He has a bachelor’s degree from High Point University and a master’s in fine arts from UNC Greensboro. 

[vc_custom_heading text=”RHETT MABRY”][vc_custom_heading text=”CEO | Duke Endowment” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The Duke University master’s degree graduate joined the organization in 1992 and became president in 2016. Since J.B. Duke started it in 1924, the endowment has distributed more than $4 billion to higher education, health care, child services and rural churches. It had assets of $3.8 billion as of 2019.

[vc_custom_heading text=”MICHAEL MARSICANO”][vc_custom_heading text=”CEO | Foundation For The Carolinas” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Marsicano, 65, joined the foundation in 1999 after a decade leading the Charlotte Arts & Science Council. The Duke University graduate has helped grow its assets to $3.1 billion from $250 million. He was named No. 1 on Charlotte Magazine’s 2017 50 Most Powerful People in Charlotte list. In 2018, NonProfit Times named him one of the top 50 U.S. nonprofit executives.

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First job: Installing roofs

North Carolina’s challenge: The increasing polarization of our politics along red and blue lines

Proud family accomplishment: Thanks to the pandemic lockdown, my wife and I have discovered that we can live together in retirement.

Favorite recent book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


[vc_custom_heading text=”JIM MELVIN”][vc_custom_heading text=”CEO | Joseph M. Bryan Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Long called “Mr. Greensboro,” the former mayor and retired banker has been involved in funding the Gate City’s downtown base-
ball stadium, massive industrial sites and many other projects. The UNC Chapel Hill
graduate, 87, joined the foundation as CEO in 1996. He had previously led 1st Home
Federal Savings and Loan for a decade.

[vc_custom_heading text=”SUSAN MIMS”][vc_custom_heading text=”interim CEO | Dogwood Health Trust” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The trust, which was created with $1.5 billion from the 2019 sale of Mission Health, named Mims as interim CEO after the departure of Anthony Chiang. She is a veteran leader in Asheville area health care at Mission and Buncombe County. She has medical and master’s degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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Employer’s distinction: Dogwood Health Trust’s purpose is to improve the health and well-being of western North Carolina’s residents and communities. It focuses on the causes and drivers of health.

North Carolina’s challenge: The pandemic will have longstanding ramifications to lifelong health and well-being. It revealed many systemic problems and uncovered disparities in health and social issues that disproportionately impact our communities of color.

Best advice: We tend to quickly assess situations and make assumptions. When we take time to wonder why someone acted that way, it can lead to building connections with people who may enrich our lives.


[vc_custom_heading text=”LORI O’KEEFE”][vc_custom_heading text=”president, CEO | Triangle Community Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


With a bachelor’s and MBA from the State University of New York, O’Keefe joined the nonprofit in 2005 and became its president and CEO in 2012. Assets have grown to more than $250 million during her tenure.

[vc_custom_heading text=”MARY CLAUDIA “MC” BELK PILON”][vc_custom_heading text=”president and board chairwoman | John M. Belk Endowment” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


The Roanoke College graduate, 47, worked for her family’s department-store chain for 12 years before joining the endowment named after her father. She has helped shift the group’s strategy to focus on postsecondary education. In 2020, she received the I.E. Ready Award, the highest honor bestowed by the State Board of Community Colleges.

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North Carolina’s challenge: Responding to the pandemic and our nation’s racial awakening. The state must capitalize on its excellent education infrastructure and improve education delivery and support to students, better preparing them for college. We also need more residents to complete college, earning degrees and credentials that align with the needs of industry and businesses. 

Best advice: While listening to a flight attendant recommend donning your oxygen mask first then helping others in the event of an emergency, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had an “aha” moment. She had been prioritizing others at the expense of herself. She vowed to start every day by identifying where she needed “oxygen,” so she could be the best version of herself in support of others.

Favorite recent book: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg


[vc_custom_heading text=”LISA PURCELL”][vc_custom_heading text=”interim president | Winston-Salem Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Purcell, a University of Georgia and University of North Texas graduate, had been the $620 million asset group’s executive vice president since 2006. She became interim president last fall after longtime leader Scott Wierman joined Hilton Head Island, S.C.’s foundation. She previously worked for Hanesbrands. 

[vc_custom_heading text=”HENRY WALKER SANDERS”][vc_custom_heading text=”president | Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


A Sewanee: The University of the South graduate, Sanders, 55, has led the group since 1999. Formed in 1983, it has assets of $300 million and granted $35 million last year.

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Employer’s distinction: We help fulfill philanthropic dreams and address the community’s critical issues.                 

Best advice: Never make a judgment of a person based on who they hang out with, how they dress or what their position is. Base it on your personal relationship.

Favorite passions: Entertaining, cooking and traveling

Favorite music: Bob Dylan


[vc_custom_heading text=”JENNIFER TOLLE WHITESIDE”][vc_custom_heading text=”president, CEO | North Carolina Community Foundation” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left”]


Since 2007, she has led the $290 million asset group that supports foundations in smaller N.C. communities. The group was initiated by former First Citizens Bancshares CEO Lewis “Snow” Holding. Tolle Whiteside previously was executive director of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.