Dennis Noll Announces Retirement From San Antonio Area Foundation

Oct 9, 2017

Dennis Noll's nearly seven years at the helm of the San Antonio Area foundation will be remembered as a one of rapid expansion. 

When he came to the community grant making foundation they had around $211 million in assets, when he departs next year it will have $900 million.

The bulk of that growth came in the form of a single massive gift, more than $600 million from John Santikos' estate --turning over vast swaths of property as well as his for-profit movie theater chain. It was the single largest gift in the foundation's history, and it tripled their assets and giving power.

According to Jason Franklin at the University of Grand Valley State University, it was the largest donation in the U.S. in 2015, and the largest to any community foundation in more than 15 years, "To my knowledge --since the year 2000--the only person who has given more to a community foundation is Mark Zuckerberg," he said in an interview with TPR last year.

 Despite the rapid growth, Noll says he wanted the Area Foundation to make a bigger impact at the street level.

"My real focus from early on was not growth for growths sake but focusing the assets we have on the folks in San Antonio who need the most help."

Noll says he was very interested in closing the opportunity gap for low income and people of color, pointing to program grants like those for Excel Beyond the Bell, which helps youth access quality after school programs.

He says ultimately this wasn't really about him but about the people that stepped up to try and help.

"It's Mr. Santikos, it's Mrs. Lewis, it's Mrs. Wells, it's Mr. Russ...its all of our donors," Noll says

He equates himself to the drummer in a band of big charitable foundations and givers, and he hopes he kept a good beat.