Charles Thomas to lead Knight Foundation investments



New Knight program director in Charlotte has a strong background in civic innovation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jan. 25, 2016 — Charles Thomas, an experienced social entrepreneur and civic innovator, will join the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as a program director based in Charlotte.

Charles Thomas: Photo by Jeff Cravotta

Thomas, who was raised in Charlotte, will work with local leaders and other community members to find and invest in projects that help to keep and attract talented people in the city, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement. He will start on Feb. 22.

Since 2011, Thomas has been founding executive director of Queen City Forward, a hub for entrepreneurs who have business ideas that address social needs. He was responsible for launching the organization and building programs to advance and support social entrepreneurship, college entrepreneurship and civic innovation. Queen City Forward has served over 70 entrepreneurs creating solutions to some of Charlotte’s greatest challenges in health and wellness, education, workforce development, green energy solutions and technology.

Prior to leading Queen City Forward, Thomas served as the director of education for The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, an organization dedicated to using the creative arts to transform communities. During his tenure, he expanded the museum’s outreach program, increasing impact and earned revenue.

“Charles’ commitment to Charlotte and its future is obvious. He has spent his career bringing to life ideas that benefit the community, and engaging people around the city’s rich arts and cultural institutions as forces for transformation,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president.

“I have always been fascinated by the process by which people, organizations and businesses come together, learn from one another and use innovation and creativity to solve our community’s most challenging problems,” said Thomas. “As program director for Knight Foundation, I look forward to being an agent of that positive change in Charlotte and beyond.”

“As the founding executive director, Charles built Queen City Forward from the ground up,” said Shay Prosser, Queen City Forward board chair. “Four years later the organization is thriving and strong, poised to become a leading force in promoting social entrepreneurism in our region. We know that Charles will similarly expand the impact of Knight Foundation. We wish him well.”

A professional photographer, Thomas also founded Sankofa Photography with a mission to assist in the preservation of heritage and culture in communities through photography. He co-published a book of photography and stories with author Valaida Fullwood, “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. The book won the 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award and inspired a traveling exhibition “Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed and Exhibited,” which is touring the country.

Thomas has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Duke University. He serves on the board of trustees of The Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library and the board of the East Mecklenburg High School Foundation. He is an active member of the New Generation of African American Philanthropy. Charles also served on the founding steering committee of TEDxCharlotte.

Charles and his wife, Micaila Milburn, live in Charlotte with their three sons.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more visit, knightfoundation.org.

Contact: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, media@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

We invest in civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

Knight’s Communications Department can arrange interviews with program directors and facilitate contacting grant recipients.

If you’re part of a grantee organization intending to publicize a grant you’ve received, please contact the Communications Department for guidance.

Charles Thomas will lead Knight Foundation investments in Charlotte – Knight Foundation.

Source: Charles Thomas will lead Knight Foundation investments in Charlotte – Knight Foundation