The Spartanburg County Foundation Mary L. Thomas


Chief Operating Officer

Mary L. Thomas has over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.  She currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of The Spartanburg County Foundation where she is responsible for the day to day operations of the organization and leads its mission, vision, and strategies while translating the Foundation’s goals into the overall program of work. Prior to joining the Foundation in 1998, Ms. Thomas was the Executive Director of The Bethlehem Center, a ministry that serves families in the Highland community of Spartanburg, SC for 11 years.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Winthrop University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French and Communications. She was an exchange student to France through Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1983 and is a former French teacher in Spartanburg District 7 schools.

Ms. Thomas is a very active leader in the Spartanburg community and has held extensive leadership roles with a host of organizations throughout the area and beyond.  She currently serves on the Apella Board of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Converse College Board of Visitors, the Northside Development Group Board of Directors, and the BMW Community Advisory Panel.  Her past board service includes: The Southeastern Council of Foundations, The Rotary Club of Spartanburg, CF Leads, Women in Philanthropy, AFL Advisory Board, the Mary Black Health System Women’s and Children’s Advisory Board, the Mary Black Health System Board of Trustees, and SC ETV Advisory Board.  She is also a former Commissioner for The South Carolina State Housing and Finance Authority. Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Leadership Spartanburg, Furman University Diversity Leadership Institute, and Spartanburg Regional Fellows. She is a Past Chair of The SC Grantmakers, the Spartanburg County Consensus Project, and Spartanburg Communities in Schools.

Ms. Thomas’s many honors include but are not limited to: being named Top Three Distinguished Grantmakers by the Council on Foundations in 2014 and, in 2006, being the first African American to win the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking established by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of New York.  She took her prize money of $10,000 coupled with numerous gifts from the Spartanburg community to establish the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change. This award is managed by The Spartanburg County Foundation, and a deserving leader is recognized annually for his/her leadership on critical issues in the Spartanburg community.  Other honors include Junior League Sustainer of the Year, the James E. Whitmire Meritorious Award, the Sunrise Civitan Good Citizen Award, the Mary McCloud Bethune Trailblazer Award (presented by the National Council of Negro Women), the 1998 Piedmont Area Girl Scouts Woman of Achievement, and a 1997 YMCA Black Achiever.  She was ordained as a minister in 1986 by the Rocky River Baptist Association and is the second female to have that distinction in the Association. She is a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church where she serves as an Elder and Ministry Advisor. Ms. Thomas is the daughter of Mrs. Louise Thomas and Fred Thomas of Spartanburg, SC and is the eldest of three children. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, decorating, cooking, and sports.

Contact for:

  • Mission, Vision, and Strategy
  • Community Foundation Inquiries
  • Foundation Operations
  • Foundation Presentations
  • Community Leadership/Convening