The New Albany Community Foundation’s influence as a convener grows


President Craig Mohre doesn’t talk about himself when describing the evolution of the New Albany Community Foundation. Instead, he focuses on how it has brought people together to make life in New Albany extraordinary — and lets the results speak for themselves.

Mohre arrived at the foundation 16 years ago, when its underlying assets were $180,000. Now, it has more than $15 million in assets and about 70 funds directed by families and companies. The foundation has awarded over $12 million to support lifelong learning, health and wellness, the arts and environmental sustainability. It also established the McCoy Center for the Arts’ $7 million endowment.

“I have a part-time assistant,” Mohre says of his staff. “The Columbus Foundation does a lot of our back office. All our financial reporting, they do that for us. That allows me to be doing more in the community.”

The board includes 14 voting members, and nonvoting members such as the mayor, school superintendent, presidents of the school board and township trustees, and Jack Kessler, co-founder and chairman of The New Albany Co.

“You have all the community leaders around a table talking about how we can work together to achieve a shared vision for New Albany,” Mohre says.

High caliber

One great success started six years ago: the Jefferson Series. Mohre says The Ohio State University students benchmarked the event as one of the country’s top 10 lecture series.

It spun out from Remarkable Evening, hosted by Leslie and Abigail Wexner, and raises about $1.4 million each year.
The Jefferson Series usually sells out, and a recent talk even aired on CNN. While donors automatically get seats, the event draws students and the general public from across the state.

“A guy called me and said, ‘I just love the Jefferson Series. I want to know when tickets go on sale so I can buy the whole season,’” says Mohre. “And I said, ‘That’s great. Where do you live?’ And he said, ‘I’m in Cincinnati.’”

During the day of an event, students from regional high schools gather for their own lecture. The foundation donates books by the speakers, so students are prepared to interact.

New Albany has a reputation as an affluent community, but Mohre says there’s more diversity than people realize. The student lectures take that further by drawing from the inner city, suburbs and rural areas, as well as public and private schools.

“It’s a pretty good cross-section of Central Ohio,” he says.


What’s going on now?

The New Albany Community Foundation is raising money to build an outdoor amphitheater and endow the Jefferson Series.

“What we need to do to sustain it at a high level is have an endowment that, along with sponsorships, it can be self-sustaining,” Mohre says. “Right now, we’re subsidizing it from Remarkable Evening.”

Mohre expects the amphitheater project to break ground this year.