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CW Journal : Winter 2011 : Message from the President

President Colin G. Campbell

President Colin G. Campbell

Message from the President

The Evolution of Colonial Williamsburg

After months of study and strategic preparation, in November 1927, John D. Rockefeller Jr. directed his associates to expand the embrace of his astonishing philanthropy to include the restoration of the core of eighteenth-century Williamsburg. It was the last time anyone would have an opportunity to return a colonial American capital to the past of Washington and Jefferson, and the first time anyone would attempt anything on such a scale.

In the eighty-five years since, millions of Americans have helped Mr. Rockefeller advance the mission of his undertaking—“That the future may learn from the past”—by contributing their hopes, their time, and their dollars, large and small. Colonial Williamsburg started, essentially, as a city-size architectural exhibit and collection of house museums. It became what one of my predecessors called a laboratory of liberty. It has evolved into a vibrant, integrated, and technologically sophisticated educational institution with lessons to teach to the nation and to the world.

Mr. Rockefeller said at first that he would pledge up to $5 million for the enterprise. Before his death in 1960, his grants totaled nearly fourteen times that. Yet the project was still growing, still developing, still evolving—as indeed it still is—and the demands of stewardship grew as well.

It is a blessing that later Rockefeller family members—notably Mr. Rockefeller’s son David and his granddaughter Abby O’Neill and her husband, George—continued the family’s generosity to Colonial Williamsburg. David’s gifts have supported Historic Area program renewal, the Presidential Discretionary Fund, and the National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” challenge grant. Abby and George have made gifts for Bassett Hall’s restoration, the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, an educational outreach endowment, and two endowed positions.

Through the decades, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has prospered with the support of other benefactors, who in their own ways have been just as generous as its founding family. They have come forward to sustain and improve an organization dedicated to making better citizens by advancing the knowledge of history, the cause of citizenship, and the principles of representative government.

Colonial Williamsburg friends have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to help create innovative programs and significant structures. The network includes volunteers, people who remember us with $35 annually to support this journal and the foundation, and benefactors who with gifts of millions have helped us change the Historic Area’s landscape and promoted our outreach ventures.

Lila and DeWitt Wallace underwrote the Public Hospital as well as a world-class museum bearing their name that exhibits some of the nation’s best decorative and fine arts. June and Joe Hennage gave us an auditorium with programs that enrich all venues. Lee and Walter Annenberg helped create the Bruton Heights School Education Center, through which run the threads of the foundation’s research and learning activities. Joseph and Ruth Lasser gave their collection of colonial coins, medals, and paper money, painstakingly acquired over decades and recognized worldwide as one of the most important ever assembled.

Since the founding of Colonial Williamsburg’s Teacher Institute, Marion and Bob Wilson’s generosity has been the lifeblood of that program for thousands of teachers of social studies, American history, and civics. Gretchen and Bill Kimball’s munificence created the Kimball Young Patriots Fund, which promotes improvements in history teaching, the development of learning materials, and on-site programming for younger audiences. And even as the foundation’s educational methods evolve, its original instructional tool, the Historic Area, is enriched by Forrest Mars Jr.’s investments in the first major reconstructions in fifty years—Charlton’s Coffeehouse and Anderson’s Public Armoury, including an adjoining tinsmith’s shop.

Extraordinary benefactors have changed the face of our institution. But Colonial Williamsburg’s great good fortune is that it has well in excess of 100,000 annual supporters—more than 19,000 new friends in 2011. Each of these philanthropists is an essential member of the Colonial Williamsburg community, crucial to sustaining the institution’s development. Such generosity underwrites our persistent pursuit and expanding communication of the evolving relevance of the American Revolution.

Colin G. Campbell
President and CEO