The Story of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation
The A. J. Fletcher Foundation was established through the generosity of the late Alfred Johnston (A.J.) Fletcher (1887-1979). Mr. Fletcher’s initial objective was to provide annual operating support for the Grass Roots Opera, one of his numerous civic and artistic endeavors. The Grass Roots Opera evolved into The National Opera Company and later The Fletcher School of Performing Arts (now the AJ Fletcher Opera Institute at the UNC School of the Arts).
In 1961, the A.J. Fletcher Educational and Opera Foundation was established and quietly served as a relatively unknown supporter of opera companies, symphony orchestras, colleges/universities, scholarships, and other arts institutions until the late 1980s. The 1986 sale of Southern Life Insurance, of which the foundation was a major shareholder, bolstered the foundation assets and propelled the foundation to do the work it does today.
In 1988, the foundation was renamed the A.J. Fletcher Foundation and the increased resources afforded the board opportunities to commit significant support to its current work in the arts and education. Simultaneously, the foundation began to broaden its scope and prioritized issues around education, poverty programs, and statewide service organizations. Additionally, the foundation started to offer seed money to new and emerging nonprofits.
Education and the arts have always a cornerstone of the foundation’s work. In 2001, the foundation made its largest grant in history: A $10 million dollar grant to the UNC School of the Arts to establish the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute. The foundation supports several institutions that work to increase access to high-quality education including the Fletcher Scholars Program at the Wake Forest School of Law providing an incoming student with a full-tuition scholarship.
In the late 1990s, the foundation began to support The Achievement School, a nonprofit school for students with learning differences. In 2004, The Achievement School changed its name to The Fletcher Academy to honor that partnership. The Fletcher Academy is a private nonprofit school dedicated to children with learning differences.
Today, in addition to supporting The Fletcher Academy, the foundation supports other public charities located in North Carolina or serving North Carolina residents that have as one of their purposes the care or support of the elderly, infirm or indigent, the promotion of education, artistic endeavors, communication arts or public recreation or the fostering of religious faith.