Founders’ Day Celebration: 35 Years of Impact

Nearly 200 esteemed guests gathered at the Umstead Hotel in Cary on the evening of Wednesday, November 14, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Triangle Community Foundation.

Pat Nathan, Board Chair, welcomed the crowd, remarking what a momentous occasion was, “a milestone that without all of you in the room, we wouldn’t be here to celebrate.”

The Foundation was founded by Dr. George Hitchings in 1983 with a single check for $1,000 and a vision “for a community that came together, set aside differences, and gave back to those in need.”

“Thirty-five years! Thirty-five years of connecting donors to critical issues in our region. Of convening local leaders to learn more about how we can work together to move the needle on urgent matters that need our attention here at home,” said Nathan. “Of building an ecosystem of strong nonprofits who are equipped to serve our community’s needs. Of creating a legacy that will serve the Triangle for generations to come. Thirty-five years. It hasn’t been a small task to do the work we do – we’ve grown and changed alongside this region and evolved over time to ensure we’re making the greatest impact.”

Nathan reminded the crowd how that work has been possible, and what the one common denominator has been – them.

“You are a part of our past, and the connection to our future. For 35 years, our impact in the community has been significant because of your passion and dedication for what’s next. We share a vision for this region, one where we work together to ensure everyone thrives. We are on this journey together, and it is our shared legacy,” she said.

Nathan introduced a video highlighting where the Foundation has come from, and where it is going, with newly uncovered footage of Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr. speaking of his early conversations with Dr. Hitchings.

Fundholder Margaretta Claessen, President & CEO Lori O’Keefe, and Board Members Farad Ali and Tucker Bartlett also appeared in the footage, sharing their memories of those early beginnings and their hopes and dreams for the future of our community.

O’Keefe took to the podium and also thanked everyone for their contributions to the Foundation, asking past board chairs to stand.

“We’ve had different leaders, different office locations, and different programs throughout those years, but one thing has never changed. We’ve always existed to connect donors with causes of great importance in our community and make the greatest impact. And you’ve made that happen.”

She went on to point out the many things that have been accomplished in just the last five years. Things like:

– Five years ago, we received $25.2 million in gifts, and this year we received a record $36.5 million.

– Five years ago, we granted out $15.4 million to the community, and this year we granted out a record $29.6 million.

– Our assets have grown by 31%, this year they are at $247.9 million dollars, and they continue to grow.

– Last year we hit a new scholarship record with nearly $1 million granted out in just one academic year, and in total over the last five years, we have granted out over $4 million in scholarships, helping so many students in the Triangle achieve their dreams of higher education.

O’Keefe highlighted the legacy work of passionate, forward-thinking individuals, donors who “have brought $2.5M to conserve and protect land and water in the region, generational giving that has helped us reshape our Social Responsible Investment portfolio’s negative and positive screens, large planned gifts to support necessary local human services, an endowment for the arts, selfless giving to women and girls in our region, and so much more.”

She also credited professional advisors for stewarding much of the giving to the Foundation, and their commitment to creating legacies for their clients that impact the community for generations.

O’Keefe spoke fondly about Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr., who passed away in July, and announced that SunTrust and the Durham Tech Foundation were working together to raise funds for his scholarship at the school (if you are interested in joining us and making a grant in his honor, please follow the instructions in the box to the left).

O’Keefe spoke of the future and shared what she thinks it holds for the Foundation.

“A deeper focus on our community. A commitment to working with transformational donors and leaders to identify gaps, reduce inequities, and come together to solve some of the region’s most pressing challenges,” she said. “Space and time for real conversation, listening, and learning from those impacted by these challenges. Continued financial expertise and insightful guidance in our work. And so much more.”

Foundation Leadership Council member Rick Guirlinger was next to speak, and he reminded the crowd just how important their legacy is.

“Your legacy is about life and living. It’s about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future,” he said. “It’s about creating something that is never over, serves others forever, and expresses your hopes and dreams for the future.”

Guirlinger remarked that the Foundation is home to over 250 Legacy donors, and that these donors have helped to shape the future of our work and created significant impact in the work we are currently able to accomplish.

“Five years ago we engaged community leaders, nonprofit leaders, and many of you in the room to learn about the greatest needs in our region and discuss how we could tackle them, together,” he said. “Since then, $6.4 million dollars has been contributed to our Fund for the Triangle, funding Our Focus programs in the arts, community development, the environment, and youth literacy, as well as Send a Kid To Camp™, and educational programs like our Learning Co-horts and What Matters.”

He excitedly shared that we’ve granted out $3.6 million of that to 125 organizations over the past five years, noting how much we’ve accomplished, and yet how far we have to go.

Guirlinger reminded the audience that legacy gifts have allowed us to make real change on these issues in our region, and we look forward to a continued commitment to the Foundation’s Fund for the Triangle so that we can build a stronger region for all.

“We are so fortunate to have a community of people who want to do good and be more. Thank you for being a part of that in the past, involved our present, and invested in our future,” he said.

As he closed out the evening, Guirlinger left the audience with two poignant questions – What will your legacy be? What good do you hope to accomplish during your lifetime and beyond?

“I encourage you to have these conversations, and explore what is important to you, what change you want to see in our region,” he said. “Thank you for being a part of our past, involved our present, and invested in our future – we look forward to exploring what’s next with you.”