March 2017

Anne Cannon Forsyth

Anne Cannon Forsyth

Anne Cannon Forsyth firmly believed that a solid education could open doors throughout a person’s life. She invested her time working to ensure that those doors opened into a world of racial equality and cultural diversity.

Born in 1930, Forsyth was the daughter of Z. Smith Reynolds and granddaughter of R. J. Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina during the early part of the 20th Century. She was raised in Winston-Salem by her great-grandmother, who continually stressed the importance of helping those less fortunate.

As an adult, Forsyth was concerned with the problems of poverty and racism, championing the cause of traditionally under-represented people. She saw desegregation as providing opportunity for students of different races to meet. She believed that diversifying school populations would lead to better relationships between races and to a fuller, more inclusive society.

In the 1960s, as the country turned its attention to the desegregation of public schools, Forsyth focused on opportunities for African-American students to attend formerly all-white private boarding schools, many of which had never opened their doors to a non-white student. She created and funded the Anne C. Stouffer Foundation in 1967 to promote the integration of southern preparatory schools.

By 1975, the Stouffer Foundation had helped place 142 students in 22 schools across the south. Many of these students later attended prestigious universities such as Harvard and Princeton and became successful members of their communities, representing fields such as business, medicine, law and technology.

In 1981, Forsyth helped create the Awards Committee for Education, granting 700 African American students with summer educational opportunities at North Carolina universities.

She was a founder and later president of the 1960s-era North Carolina Fund, which was created by Gov. Terry Sanford as a statewide anti-poverty effort and which served as a model for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. And she served as President of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which sought to improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians.

While Forsyth practiced private philanthropy, making many of her contributions out of the public eye, she actively supported many programs and initiatives designed to improve people’s lives. For example, Forsyth contributed to the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Penland School of Crafts, the Blowing Rock Stage Company, and the Blowing Rock Hospital.

Forsyth passed away on May 11, 2003. But her legacy continued through the Anne Cannon Trust. The trust established the Anne Cannon Scholars Program at Appalachian State University in 2006 to honor Forsyth’s memory. For four years, the program provided scholarships to minority students who wished to study education. In addition, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation requested that the atrium at the Greensboro Civil Rights Museum be named in her memory and endowed a scholarship in her name for a post-doctorate minority student at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.

Author: Raquel Kelly