ZSR Timeline (1936-Present)

1936: After Z. Smith Reynolds, son of R.J. Reynolds, dies at age 21 in 1932 his sister, Mary, along with Nancy and Richard, petitions the court to settle Z. Smith’s estate and approve $7.5 million to establish the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem as a memorial to their youngest brother. The charter reads: “The object for which this corporation is formed is the accomplishment of charitable works in the state of North Carolina.” All funds awarded by the Foundation have been spent in the state of North Carolina with the Foundation acting as a single donor or in partnership with other foundations, universities and/or government entities.

1937-1946: ZSR Trustees award their first grant of $100,000 to the North Carolina State Health Department to the eradicate venereal disease, a growing issue that remains largely in the shadows and unmentioned by many. This 10-year grant is a collaboration between the private and public health sectors. ZSR invests nearly $1.5 million into this effort.

1946: ZSR enters into a contract with Wake Forest University to move the school from Wake Forest to Winston-Salem. The Foundation pledges to provide annual contributions to the university in perpetuity. Wake Forest University opens its doors in Winston-Salem in 1956.

1951: President of the Foundation and uncle to Z. Smith Reynolds, William Neal Reynolds, known as “Uncle Will,” passes away at age 88. The trust that is set up after William Reynolds’ death provides additional income that is gifted to the Foundation and doubles the Foundation’s philanthropic assets. William Reynolds’ also leaves substantial funds to assist other charitable organizations in Winston-Salem, including the financing of an African American hospital.

1956-1966: ZSR invests nearly $31 million in initiatives and projects such as historic restorations, building drives, public libraries, health education, scholarships and museums.

1960: ZSR establishes the Mary Reynolds Babcock Professorship at Davidson College to honor Mary Reynolds Babcock, sister of Z. Smith Reynolds.

1962: The first Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarships are awarded, which provides aid to young women seeking a college education at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. These scholarships commemorate the life and legacy of UNCG Alumnae Katharine Smith Reynolds – wife of R.J. Reynolds and mother of Z. Smith Reynolds.

1963-1969: ZSR partners with Governor Terry Sanford to launch the North Carolina Fund – a five-year initiative to help tackle the war on poverty. This effort leads to the establishment of several community action agencies and several new institutions, some of which still exist today. This also becomes a model for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty.

1964: ZSR invests $100,000 in scholarships in partnership with the Stouffer Foundation to provide opportunities for African American youth to attend institutions of higher education in the South. Twenty-four students are awarded scholarships beginning in academic year 1965. The program eventually provides 160 African American men and women with this opportunity.

1967: The Foundation opens an office in the Wachovia Building in downtown Winston-Salem and hires its first executive director, James Hilton, retired president of Iowa State University at Ames.

1969: ZSR establishes the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Scholarship at Meredith College – an all-women’s college – to provide financial aid to eligible students.

1970: ZSR begins two grant cycles per year. Examples of grants awarded include: teacher education, early childhood education, homes for delinquent youth, conservation efforts, assembly programs to involve citizens in their communities and alternatives to incarceration.

  • Up until this point, ZSR’s Board of Trustees is made up of all family members. During this year, the Board elects its first non-family member, Dr. Joseph Gordon.

1971: Executive Director James Hilton retires. ZSR brings in Dale Gramley, retired president of Salem College.

1974: Over the next ten years, ZSR partners with the Kate B. Reynolds Health Care Trust and the Duke Endowment to provide funding to place full-time staff in emergency rooms of hospitals in small communities so residents have 24-hour access to healthcare.

1975: ZSR establishes what is known today as the William Neal Reynolds Law Professorship, an endowed chair position, at Duke University School of Law. The fund was originally created to fund scholarships in the Duke University School of Law, but was converted to this current use in 1987.

1977: ZSR establishes two Advisory Panels – one senior and junior panel – to better understand the opportunities and challenges of communities across North Carolina, which help inform the Foundation’s grantmaking. In 1980, the two groups combine into one. The Panel is also eventually responsible for selecting the recipients of ZSR’s Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards.

  • During this year, ZSR provides funding to establish the NC chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

1978: In the mid-1970’s, Dale Gramley retires and ZSR names Tom Lambeth as executive director. Lambeth and his staff adopt and encourage a more strategic, intentional approach to grantmaking, with the goal of building a stronger, more cohesive state through its investments in people, communities and systemic change. During this year, ZSR begins expanding its program staff.

1979: ZSR begins funding the NC Center for Public Policy Research – an organization that serves as a watchdog over state government on behalf of the people of North Carolina.

1980: ZSR develops a set of focus areas to hone its grantmaking and create more impact across North Carolina.

1981: ZSR commissions the NC Citizens Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration – an independent study group established by ZSR and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation – to raise more awareness about the problem of prison overcrowding and experiment with programs and policies that address alternatives to incarceration for first-time and non-violent offenders. The support ZSR provides links it to the state’s emergence of grassroots community corrections and alternatives to incarceration programs that exist today.

1982: Wake Forest University begins awarding Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholarships, which awards up to six extraordinarily capable entering freshmen. Made possible by ZSR, this scholarship annually covers the costs of tuition, fees, room and board, and includes an allowance for books and personal expenses. Scholars may also receive additional funds each summer for approved travel or study projects.

  • During this year, ZSR provides funding for Reynolds Professorships, to attract and retain faculty from Wake Forest University who demonstrate the highest academic values, exhibit a genuine commitment to the teacher-scholar model, and contribute to the exciting learning environment through superb classroom teaching and progressive research programs. Dr. Maya Angelou was the recipient of a Reynolds Professorship.

1984: To prevent more well-known, historically prestigious institutions from receiving more attention than smaller, independent colleges and universities, the Foundation commissions a review of higher education in North Carolina called the Third Century Project. One of the findings states the NC Community College system is under-funded, which leads to the creation and support of the NC Community College Foundation.

1985: To honor the late, Nancy Susan Reynolds – Z. Smith Reynolds’ sister – ZSR inaugurates the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards for Community Service. Up to three awards are presented annually in one of the following categories: Advocacy, Personal Service and Race Relations. The first awards are made in 1986.  The awards are discontinued in 2010, but over 25 years, recognize more than 80 North Carolinians who have served their communities and the state.

  • During this year, the Foundation also establishes the Public School Forum of North Carolina – an organization that is designed to radically improve public education across the state. The Forum is also responsible for launching the NC Teaching Fellows initiative.

1986: ZSR helps establish North Carolina offices for the Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

  • ZSR also creates two regional support positions to help local communities start Community Development Corporations (CDCs), which eventually leads to the establishment of the NC Association of CDCs.
  • During this year, ZSR also elects Josephine Clement to the Board of Trustees – an intentional effort on the part of the Board to bring underrepresented populations, as well as more women, into foundation roles.
  • Wake Forest University begins awarding Joseph G. Gordon Scholarships, in honor of the ZSR’s first non-family Board member. Funded by ZSR and Wake Forest University, scholarships are awarded to up to seven entering first-year students who show exceptional promise and leadership potential and who are members of constituencies traditionally underrepresented at the University.

1987: To address women’s issues in North Carolina, ZSR commissions a year-long study that recommends establishing a new organization called NC Equity, to support and address the economic needs of women in NC.

  • During this year, ZSR also provides funding toward the establishment of a statewide organization that is dedicated to the advancement of rural issues called the NC Rural Economic Development Center.

1989: ZSR institutes a Sabbatical Program to honor leaders of nonprofit organizations in North Carolina for their dedicated service and commitment to the sector. Three to six month sabbaticals offer individuals the opportunity to focus primarily on their personal needs and devote themselves to self-revitalization, renewal and growth. To date, the Foundation has invested $3 million in the Sabbatical Program and provided awards to more than 130 NC nonprofit leaders.

  • During this year, ZSR also launches a Foundation-wide initiative to address poverty in North Carolina called the Opportunities for Families Fund (OFF). OFF is an attempt for the Foundation to play a role in welfare reform by funding projects that strengthen families and enable them to achieve greater self-sufficiency.
  • During this year, ZSR establishes Wake Forest Professorships and awards them to Wake Forest University faculty in recognition of important contributions, professional achievement and academic excellence. 

1991: ZSR establishes a five-year initiative intended to help school administrators from under-represented populations secure positions as principals and superintendents called the Minority Administrators Education Project.

1992: With the emergence of the nonprofit sector in North Carolina, ZSR becomes an early funder of a statewide center to support of the NC Center for Nonprofits to unite nonprofit organizations across the state.

  • ZSR also hires its first full-time fellow thus establishing ZSR’s Fellowship Program. The fellowship starts out as a one year opportunity, but is later extended to two years.

1993: Under the leadership of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, James Exum, ZSR funds the creation of a study commission that make recommendations for widespread changes in North Carolina’s judicial system. The Commission issues its final report in 1996.

1994: NC Community Development Initiative (the Initiative) is established. ZSR staff assists in securing funding from the Ford Foundation, which is funneled into the NC Association of CDC’s and out of that planning comes the Initiative. 

1995: At the suggestion of ZSR’s Advisory Panel, the Foundation begins an effort in civic engagement to encourage people to become more involved in the political process and in their communities. In 1997-1998, Advisory Panel members Leslie Anderson and Mike Smith help found the NC Civic Education Consortium, which is housed at the UNC-CH School of Government. ZSR plays a convening role, provides initial funding, and is instrumental in establishing an initial steering committee. The Consortium is first funded in 1998.

1996: ZSR Trustees establish the Joseph G. Gordon fund at the Winston-Salem Foundation to honor longtime trustee, Dr. Joseph Gordon, who passes away earlier this year. This fund provides early childhood development and educational opportunities for children, up to age eight, in Forsyth County who have special challenges or needs based on limited family income, adequate parental support or other circumstances that hinder life achievements.

  • During this year, the Foundation also begins supporting a project, directed by Dr. Charles Coble of the General Administration of the University of North Carolina System, to reform teacher education programs on all the 16 campuses of the University System, in consultation and cooperation with public schools in the state.
  • During this year, the Board initiates a project called the Electronic Networking Alliance, to assist “natural networks” of nonprofits in the state in communicating with each other and their constituencies more effectively using computers and the Internet. The Foundation issues an RFP, receives 39 proposals, and approves five grants totaling $42,000.
  • During this year, ZSR establishes Zachary T. Smith Scholarships at Wake Forest University to honor the life of longtime Trustee Zachary T. Smith. These scholarships support North Carolinians based on leadership experience and academic standing and is a competitive need-based scholarship.

1997: ZSR launches Save Our State which brings together a cross-sector of the state’s corporate, civic, academic, religious and political leadership to draw attention to the need to conserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources.

1998: ZSR Trustees wants to find ways to increase academic achievement levels of NC youth, thereby establishing the Youth Development Initiative. A Youth Development Committee is established, and in 1999 a two-pronged recommendation is approved by the Board. One prong becomes known as the Bridges to the Mainstream program, which is an effort to replicate the Durham Urban Scholars model in four lower-resource areas in NC (Kinston, Pembroke, Siler City and Asheville). The second prong becomes known as the Young Scholars Program, which is administered by the Public School Forum of NC.

  • During this year, the Foundation creates an initiative called Good Government/Campaign Finance Reform. With an increase in assets for distribution, Trustees decide to make “good government,” particularly campaign finance reform, a special emphasis of the Foundation. The Foundation decides to fund a two-pronged approach: a) fund Democracy South (later Democracy North Carolina) to conduct research and grassroots mobilizing, and b) create and fund the NC Center for Voter Education to work with the media and opinion leaders to raise the level of discourse and education on the subject.

2000: Tom Lambeth retires as executive director and moves into the role of senior fellow. The Foundation brings in Tom Ross, who comes from the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

2001: ZSR concludes its work with the Race Will Not Divide Us initiative, which began in spring 2000. As part of this $1 million initiative, the Foundation makes grants to 23 organizations throughout North Carolina to assist in their efforts to improve understanding of different cultures, conduct race relations training, eliminate racism, and/or address issues of power and privilege.

  • During this year, the Foundation also convenes an initial roundtable of North Carolina funders, which grows into the NC Network of Grantmakers.
  • During this year, ZSR establishes the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair(s) in Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to honor of the retirement of Tom Lambeth, former executive director and director emeritus at the Foundation. The chair attracts distinguished teachers and scholars in the area of public policy in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law, Kenan-Flagler Business School, School of Social Work or School of Government.

2002: ZSR embarks on a yearlong strategic planning process reviewing its current mission, goals and progress. Out of this process, the Foundation adopts five focus areas that eventually become Community Economic Development, Environment, Public Education, Social Justice & Equity, and Strengthening Democracy.

2003: ZSR establishes the Hugh Humphrey Award to honor the life and work of Trustee Hugh Humphrey, who passes away in 2003. The award provides professional development funds to teachers and school administrators in Guildford County that have made the highest percentage gains in academic achievement and school improvement.

  • During this year, ZSR also commissions UNC-Chapel Hill to conduct an oral history of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, including interviews with Zach Smith, Martha Pridgen and Tom Lambeth.

2004: ZSR invests in an initiative that seeks to build career pathways and economic opportunity for low-income, rural women across North Carolina called the Women’s Economic Equity (WEE) Project, by helping to provide pathways to support low-income, rural women to move into jobs that paid the Living Income Standard. The approach for this particular project was connecting women who participated in the program to available resources with the goals of building more economic opportunities for them.

  • During this year, ZSR begins its engagement in a domestic violence initiative to determine how to secure more resources for domestic violence work. ZSR works in concert with the Governor’s Crime Commission and Duke University.
  • In this year, ZSR establishes the Teacher Professional Development project, created to identify a gap in the field of education, namely that there is no coordination of or clearinghouse for teacher professional development opportunities.
  • During this year, ZSR establishes the Anne Cannon Forsyth Fellowship at N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine to honor longtime ZSR and NC Fund Trustee Anne Cannon Forsyth. Funds provide support for interns and/or residents in equine medicine or surgery at the College.

2005: ZSR initiates and leads conversations among state-level policy oriented grantees about capacity building and collective impact. These conversations lead to the establishment of Blueprint NC.

  • During this year, ZSR also engages in cross-sector initiatives that looks at modernizing revenue structures for the state. The Foundation’s executive director chairs the Governor’s Commission for Revenue Modernization, the Foundation participates in the Institute for Emerging Issues’ working group on revenue modernization and joins forces with NCNG’s collective statement to modernize tax reform.
  • During this year, ZSR also launches a Domestic Violence Initiative to strengthen advocacy efforts within the domestic violence movement. The goal is to better domestic violence nonprofits’ fundraising skills to increase their likelihood of sustainability and to create new approaches for funder collaboration that result in a more effective and efficient system of domestic violence and sexual assault services.

2006: Executive Director Tom Ross leaves ZSR to take a position as president of Davidson College. The Foundation brings in Leslie Winner, who comes from the University of North Carolina as vice president and general counsel.

  • During this year, as part of a Comprehensive Education Reform Initiative, ZSR approves funding for the K-12 Master Plan, which is developed by a number of NC funders to address issues raised by No Child Left Behind, Leandro, and other education policies in a comprehensive way. This leads to a strategic report on education reform in 2008.
  • During this year, ZSR provides funding for the Teacher Professional Development Project – through the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Professional Development – which includes the development and implementation of an online professional development directory for K-12 educators.

2010: ZSR and the State Board of Education recognize North Carolina’s need for a new generation of well-prepared principal leaders and the need for an innovative approach to providing them with the skills and tools required to be successful school leaders. After carefully studying successful leadership programs across the country, they work with North Carolina’s small and mid-sized school districts to adapt these big city programs which initiates the idea of Regional Leadership Academies.

2011: ZSR announces its Racial Equity & Inclusion Initiative, which is a culmination of two decades of working with grantees and the state’s thought leaders to explore the importance and necessity of racial diversity and inclusion among the state’s nonprofit community.

  • During this year, ZSR also establishes the Non-Profit Internship Program (NPIP) which is designed to assist in diversifying the pool of young leaders who are interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. Each summer, the program awards college and university students enrolled in four-year institutions across the state, with paid internships at ZSR-grantee organizations. In 2017, five additional funders partnered with ZSR to provide additional internships.

2012: ZSR establishes its inaugural class of Community Leadership Council members. The goal of the CLC is to engage each class and the Foundation staff in a process of mutually enhanced understanding of the pressing issues affecting the state and to partner with the Foundation on specific projects that will better inform its grantmaking and extend its reach.

  • During this year, ZSR’s works with private sector leaders to discuss and strategize how to approach the link between public education and the health of NC’s economy, which leads to the establishment of BEST NC.
  • During this year, in celebration of the Foundation’s 75th anniversary, ZSR launches a series of Community Dialogue sessions to bring together select groups of community-based thought leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue around pressing issues affecting our state. Dialogue sessions are held in Charlotte, Boone, Greenville and Fayetteville.
  • ZSR commissions the Neimand Collaborative to conduct the first phase of education messaging research to create a framework to talk about public education across the state.

2013: ZSR commissions a statewide survey on voter perceptions of public education in North Carolina. Another survey is conducted in 2015 to compare results. Findings show North Carolina voters strongly value local public schools, support greater investments in overall funding and want more investment in teachers.

2014: ZSR provides funding for EducationNC – an online platform, providing nonpartisan data, research, news, information, and analysis about the major trends, issues, and challenges facing North Carolina’s schools. 

2015: ZSR celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Sabbatical Program. During this year, the Foundation begins providing sabbaticals every other year.

  • During this year, ZSR sponsors a series of racial equity labs aimed at increasing the capacity of grantee organizations to: 1) understand how race impacts their work internally and externally in communities and 2) develop actionable strategies to address the impact of race in their external work.

2016: Leslie J. Winner retires as executive director and the Foundation hires Maurice “Mo” Green, superintendent of Guilford County Schools.

  • ZSR selects its second cohort of Community Leadership Council members to serve a three-year term.
  • ZSR embarks on a yearlong strategic assessment process to examine and evaluate its current approach to grantmaking and broader work. As part of this assessment, the Foundation launches Mo Wants to Know – a listening and learning tour during which ZSR’s executive director, Trustees and staff will make their way across the state hearing directly from state leaders, local leaders and community members about trends and challenges, as well as opportunities, successes and ideas for making North Carolina a better place. At the end of this process, the Foundation plans to announce a new strategic direction that will guide its work moving forward.

2017: ZSR provides an update on its new emerging direction, which is comprised of three major strategies:

  • A state-level strategy to support structural and systemic changes at the state level.
  • A community-based strategy that will primarily support collaborative problem-solving efforts in local communities.
  • An exploratory, visionary ideas strategy that will allow us to invest in unconventional, singular, or higher-risk ideas that have transformative potential, but may require different or more flexible philanthropic approaches.

Trustees also commit to seeking ways to augment ZSR’s participation in the life of its hometown of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, continue to promote racial equity, and remain committed to being a learning organization.

  • During this year, ZSR establishes the Darryl Hunt Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $100,000, to provide scholarships to individuals in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County who have been convicted of a criminal offense, have served a jail or prison sentence, and are seeking higher education. Darryl Hunt, from Winston-Salem, was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder in 1984, at the age of 19 and spent nearly two decades of his life in prison. After his exoneration, he dedicated his life to speaking out against injustice and as a champion for criminal justice reform, the innocence movement and wrongful conviction.

2018: ZSR announces ALL FOR NC: Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation's Framework for Grantmaking and Learning, which builds from the strategies of the Foundation's emerging direction and aligns with our mission and core values.

  • ZSR awards its first set of State-Level Systemic Change grants (Fall 2018) under its new All For NC Framework for Grantmaking and Learning.

2019: ZSR awards its first set of Community-Based Strategy grants (Collaborative Problem-Solving and Progress Fund) and Exploratory, Visionary Ideas Strategy grants (Inclusive Public Art and All For NC Fellowship) in May 2019. At the end of the year, ZSR releases a Year In Review online digital report that shares where we are after our first full year of implementing our All For NC Framework.

2023: Maurice "Mo" Green retires as executive director and the Foundation hires Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, former Philanthropy Liaison within the NC Office of Strategic Partnerships.