The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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Knight Foundation is bidding farewell to longtime board member Rolfe Neill, and honoring his legacy with a $50,000 grant to the Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte.
Neill, a former chairman and publisher of The Charlotte Observer, served 22 years on Knight Foundation’s board. During that time, he served as chair of the Governance Committee and as a member of the Nominating Committee.
“It’s hard to imagine Knight Foundation without Rolfe Neill,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “He inspired me as a publisher. The inspiration came from the proof that you could live a life of values and succeed in business.”
Several former board members, including Dr. Gerald Austen, who was Knight’s board chairman from 1996-2010 and a friend of founders John S. and James L. Knight, attended Neill’s farewell dinner. Neill nonetheless told the gathering that he thought the current board was the best in the history of Knight.
Neill originally joined Knight Newspapers as a member of The Charlotte Observer staff in 1957, then moved to Miami in 1961 to operate papers there. In 1965, he became assistant to the publisher at the New York Daily News and later held several newsroom assignments. He rejoined Knight Newspapers in 1970 when it purchased The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Neill was editor of the Daily News and a vice president and director of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
In September 1975, he went to Charlotte as president of Knight Publishing Co. and president and publisher of The Charlotte Observer and The Charlotte News. In 1986, he was named chairman and publisher.
His Sunday column in The Observer twice won first place in the North Carolina Press Association competition for best column. He also received numerous other awards, including a distinguished alumnus award from UNC-Chapel Hill and an Advertising Club of Charlotte's Silver Medal Award.
Neill is a beloved figure in Charlotte, N.C. A public art display downtown, The Writer’s Desk, pays tribute to his life’s work.
By Elizabeth R. Miller, communications associate at Knight Foundation