The Philanthropy Messenger


The Philanthropy Messenger

The Story Behind the Stories: One Man’s Desire to Remember his Parents through a Program of Generosity.

The numbers tell the story. Numbers which relate the story of dollars and cents, of lives which are changed, of stories which are written and plans made and dreams made real.


David Setzer: “It has been an amazing saga…”

Over the past 18 years, the numbers have grown, the grants have been funded, the dollars have increased as projects have been approved, and checks have been written. It has been an amazing saga of philanthropy, right here in Salisbury and Rowan County. And it all has happened because of one man—Julian H. Robertson, Jr. —and his desire to remember his parents through a program of generosity administered by a dozen volunteers following his wishes to share his wealth in as heartfelt and serious a manner as possible.

Some $32 million has been directed from the Blanche & Julian Robertson Family Foundation to the special projects and plans of nearly 160 organizations, through grants ranging in size from $900 to $2 million. Smiles of joy and immense satisfaction to hugs and tears of disbelief accompanied the grants. It was a sight to behold and experience. On the receiving end of the gifts were folk of all ages—youth, teens, mid-teens, young adults, older adults, seniors, and those who do not admit to being seniors but those for whom the calendar begs to differ.

I have had the privilege of being the messenger for many of these gifts and seeing those faces of disbelief and sharing the tears of joy. What a pleasure that was.

Our Foundation made some major gifts in the past and it is a pleasure to recount them. For example:

  • The Hurley Family YMCA, $1 million for the new Hurley Family YMCA building campaign in 2001;
  • $1 million to the Rowan Regional Medical Center and its plans for a new private patient tower;
  • $875,000 to Rowan-Salisbury Schools for assistance in building the new central administrative offices;
  • $858,000 to Salisbury High School for a series of athletic facilities including a baseball field, tennis courts, women’s softball field, track and soccer facilities;
  • $300,000 to support construction of a new Waterworks Visual Arts Center;
  • Two grants of $1 million each to Catawba College for a series of building renovations and the launching of a Registered Nurse/Bachelor of Science in Nursing program; and
  • $2 million to support the construction of new facilities for Rowan Helping Ministries. The variety of projects is enough to bogle the mind. As it has been listed. . . from laptops to papermaché, iPods and steam engines to a new library with its own solar system, to a symphony orchestra, to a visiting teacher from China, from Special Olympics swimming
    to a playground for disabled children to an elementary school project in genetics. . . the Robertson Family Foundation has been there and helped make it happen!

The list is imposing and put another way, it includes these special items:

  • Sent high school teachers to England to study Shakespeare at the Globe Theater;
  • Helped young people travel throughout the region competing in track and field, basketball, and swimming;
  • Helped form a youth orchestra, youth theater program, and took young people to see a play (some for the first time in their lives seeing live actors and actresses on stage);
  • Helped senior citizens enjoy the benefits of aquatic exercise, have deadbolt locks put on their doors, peepholes and smoke alarms installed, and homes safety-checked;
  • The Foundation helped fund the construction of three YMCAs, one visual arts center, a 27-acre Habitat for Humanity development, four homes in some of Salisbury’s revitalized neighborhoods, and rehabilitated two historic houses on the Livingstone College campus;
  • Helped to fund construction of two soccer fields, one general athletic field, one baseball stadium, two tennis courts, a lake, four playgrounds with state of the art run, jump, swing, and slide equipment;
  • Supported the work of agencies dealing with rape, spousal abuse, child abuse, and helping to increase the knowledge base of young women entering motherhood;
  • Helped install elevators, built nursing, science and computer laboratories;
  • Helped spread tons of mulch and gravel in landscaping projects as well as plant hundreds of shrubs and small trees;
  • Provided operating funds for agencies serving children in day care, preschool kindergarten, afterschool and in-school, serving adults who are in need; and fostering community  evelopment; and
  • Helped young children get ready for the strange new world of school; helped older ones learn to read, do math, get the basics of shopping for and cooking meals, work computers, go on field trips, get ready for high school, work in alternative programs, get new band uniforms, helped tutor, advised, counsel, and remediate students, and assisted teachers to become more adept and effective in that mysterious and wonderful process of teaching.