Boston, MA – CFLeads, a national network of community foundations committed to advancing community leadership, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mary L. Thomas as its new President & CEO.
A philanthropic leader well-known and respected in her hometown of Spartanburg, SC and across the country, Mary brings a wealth of experience to this role. She has worked in the community foundation field for 25 years, joining the Spartanburg County Foundation as a Senior Program Officer and quickly being promoted to Vice President for Programs, then to Executive Vice President in 2007.
Mary was recruited to the Spartanburg County Foundation to bring her community perspective to a foundation that was far removed from the community it served. Currently, she serves in a dual capacity as Chief Operating Officer at the foundation and Executive Director of the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy. As COO, Mary is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Spartanburg County Foundation and works with the President & CEO in translating The Foundation’s goals into the overall program of work and operational plan. Mary leads the strategic planning of the organization, working with the trustees, staff and other foundation constituents. As Executive Director of the Center for Philanthropy – the first of its kind in the state of South Carolina and only one of a few in the country – Mary leads the day-to-day operations of the center, where she establishes partnerships and leverages funding across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to address critical community concerns.
We, at the Spartanburg County Foundation, could not be more pleased that Mary’s many accomplishments with the Foundation continue to be recognized on a national scale. I cannot think of a better candidate to be chosen as the new President and CEO of CFLeads. We are deeply grateful for her countless contributions to the Foundation and the Spartanburg community. Additionally, we are thrilled that the entire field of community foundations will now benefit from her passion and her leadership.
Mary has been a staunch supporter of CFLeads’ mission and vision from the very beginning, serving on its board in 2009 and participating in its first-ever community leadership network. Prior to joining the Spartanburg County Foundation, Mary led the Bethlehem Community Center for 11 years, working to meet the needs of inner-city families and strengthen their ability to lead productive and healthy lives. After the Rwandan War, she spent three months leading a team to establish a village for Rwandan refugees and Zairian Street Children. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and French from Winthrop University and worked as a French teacher before discovering her passion for making a difference in the nonprofit sector.
Mary brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and relationships to her new role as leader of CFLeads. Her proven ability to forge partnerships and facilitate collaborative networks will serve CFLeads well as it seeks to implement its ambitious strategic plan. We are thrilled to have her on board.
In addition to her deep roots in Spartanburg, Mary is well-known throughout the philanthropic sector, currently serving as the Board Chair of the Northside Development Group, part of the national Purpose Built Communities Network. She is also part of the Council on Foundations National Policy and Advocacy Committee, the Southeastern Network of African Americans in Black Philanthropy, a former member of Philanthropy Southeast, Chair of the South Carolina Grantmakers Network, Co-Chair of the Spartanburg Racial Equity Collaborative, and a trustee of Apella Management, the management company of Spartanburg Regional Health System. In her role at the Spartanburg County Foundation, Mary also participated in CFLeads’ most recent national Equity Network cohort.
Mary’s many accolades include South Carolina’s Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian award in the state, and being named the Top Three Distinguished Grantmakers by the Council on Foundations in 2014. In 2006, she became the first African American to win the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking and used her prize money to establish the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change Fund at The Spartanburg County Foundation, which annually awards an individual for their leadership on critical issues in the Spartanburg community.
With her deep community roots and her national connections and reach, Mary embodies the concept of community leadership that CFLeads is seeking to embed throughout the community foundation field.”
As President & CEO of CFLeads, Mary will use her skills as a dynamic leader, connector and relationship-builder to identify opportunities, develop strategies and implement initiatives that will help strengthen community foundations’ capacity to do more community leadership. Her long track record of amplifying community voice through local grassroots leadership training in Spartanburg and her tireless advocacy for racial equity, particularly in the South, will be an asset as CFLeads continues to create programming to help community foundations engage residents in creating equitable, community-led solutions to complex and systemic issues.
I am honored and excited to join CFLeads as its new President & CEO. There is incredible momentum in the community foundation field to do more community leadership. I look forward to working with CFLeads’ network and partners to harness that momentum and advance its mission to build strong communities where all residents are healthy, prosperous and secure.
CFLeads is grateful to Sterling Speirn for his service as interim CEO and looks forward to welcoming Mary to the team in May.
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