History of the Foundation

The Joanna Foundation was established in 1945 as an eleemosynary corporation in the State of South Carolina with broad charitable purposes, initially for the benefit of the citizens of Joanna, South Carolina, home of Joanna Cotton Mills Company.

The Foundation is “dedicated to community betterment … promoting the causes of health and education, and other worthwhile improvements.”

The founders were Mr. Walter Regnery, president of Joanna Cotton Mills Company, and Mr. William H. Regnery, president of the parent company, Joanna Western Mills of Chicago.

In establishing the Foundation, the Regnerys hit upon a bold concept to make it self-renewing and truly responsive to the needs of the community. The Foundation would own the company store, and any profits would fund community improvements. A governing board, consisting primarily of townspeople, managed the store and helped set priorities for the Foundation.

This approach reflected the Regnery philosophy of good management and good citizenship “to advance, by every possible means, independence, responsibility, and civic pride.” This early model of public/private partnership was the subject of a Harvard Business School case study in the mid-20th century.

Strong interest in higher education, community development and conservation of natural areas is an enduring legacy from the early days. Today The Joanna Foundation reflects a continuing concern for community and citizenship as well as the practical philosophy and motivational values of the founders. The trustees continue to explore opportunities to respond to changing needs by supporting programs that emphasize collaboration and personal involvement by those whom the programs are aimed to benefit.