Wierman, Departing Pres. of W-S Foundation, Reflects On 32-Year Tenure

Wierman, Departing Pres. of W-S Foundation, Reflects On 32-Year Tenure

3:42pm Aug 26, 2020
Scott Wierman. Image courtesy of the Winston-Salem Foundation.

One of the major figures in the Triad’s nonprofit community has decided to move on. Scott Wierman, president of the Winston-Salem Foundation, is leaving this fall to lead a community fund in Hilton Head, S.C.

Wierman has been with the foundation since 1988, a period that saw the organization’s assets rise from about $45 million to more than $600 million. Within a decade, Wierman expects the Winston-Salem Foundation to reach the $1 billion milestone.

Wierman arrived here in October 1988. He had no prior experience with foundations — his previous work was in collegiate fundraising.

"The Winston-Salem Foundation had a strong reputation, had a wonderful mentor and a gentleman by the name of Henry Carter, who was the president of the foundation at that time," Wierman says. "And I really thought this would be a great five- or six-year experiment. I'd learned some things and then I'd move on and do something else. And 32 years later, you wake up and it's been 32 years, but it's been a wonderful ride."

Interview highlights:

On the decision to leave:

I joined the staff when I was 25 years old. I had a wonderful mentor. I've had wonderful colleagues, an unbelievable board. So, the thought of just picking up and walking away from things when I know that this organization is poised to continue to thrive... And in fact, you know, I would expect this to be a billion-dollar organization within the next seven to 10 years. So, there's going to be more good that comes this way. It's a hard thing to walk away from.

On first impressions of Winston-Salem:

This is an extremely generous community and I don't mean just with dollars. I think about just the corps of volunteers and people that serve through nonprofit organizations and neighborhood associations. So oftentimes we hear about what separates us. But in actual fact, people believe in this community. People want to invest back in it, whether that's with their time or with their dollars. And that's kind of the secret sauce that makes this such a dynamic place to live.

On rebuilding following the RJR/Nabisco Leveraged Buyout:

There were some extremely visionary folks in this community who stepped up and talked about what this community, in fact, could become. [They] looked at its existing assets and resources and envisioned a future where technology and finance and the medical biomedical opportunities would exist down the road and put a blueprint together to just to talk about it, to kind of design. How do we get to that place where we're no longer dependent on one or two industries, that we've got a diversified economy that allows for any future shocks to have less of an impact?

On solving difficult community problems:

If you look at the whole issue of homelessness  — and obviously during the pandemic, it's flared up again to be a significant issue as people have lost employment and housing now has become a challenge — but if you look at chronic homelessness and our friends at the United Way kind of led an effort of which we were a part, we've made some significant strides. And while you never exactly have it all solved, there's been tremendous progress there.

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