Sally Gambrell Bridgford, president of The Gambrell Foundation, is the 2021 recipient of the UNC Charlotte Distinguished Service Award. She was honored Wednesday, June 9, during a special luncheon in the UNC Charlotte Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.
“We’re deeply grateful for Sally’s tireless commitment to improving the lives of the people of Charlotte and for the great support that she and The Gambrell Foundation have provided to UNC Charlotte,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber.
Gambrell Bridgford has quickly become a voice for innovative philanthropic work that looks to close gaps of inequity and build communities that allow individuals to thrive and contribute. While raising a large blended family, she has been actively charting a new course for The Gambrell Foundation: One that seeks collaboration, education behind issues and needs and brings broad support for challenges in our community and beyond.
The Gambrell Foundation has been an important partner of UNC Charlotte. In 2019, the foundation collaborated with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to launch The Gambrell Faculty Fellowship. The fellowship’s goal is to build a cadre of faculty researchers and a body of work to inform and impact the Charlotte area, particularly around issues of economic mobility.
In August 2020, a second cohort of nine fellows was named. These fellows represent three colleges and a range of disciplines including architecture, anthropology, community psychology, computing and informatics, geography and sociology.
The five research projects approved for the past year approached the subject of economic mobility in a number of innovative ways, including: the participatory development of an affordable homeownership toolkit, informal learning in virtual environments in K-12 computer science magnet programs, mapping food system assets and finding ways to create a more resilient and equitable way to feed our community, assessing the impact of arts on economic mobility and increasing Latino family access to early childhood education.
“Sally’s passion and advocacy for the underserved among us is clearly evidenced by the Foundation’s work in the community and here in our University,” said Gaber.
Prior to leading The Gambrell Foundation, Gambrell Bridgford built a successful business, Yoga One, and consolidated her family’s investment and real estate businesses. A Charlotte native, she grew up in New York City. She studied at Duke University and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in social work UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Distinguished Service Award, established in 1987 by the Board of Trustees of UNC Charlotte and the Board of Directors of the University Foundation, honors those who have provided outstanding leadership and exemplary service to the Charlotte community and to the advancement of UNC Charlotte. Each recipient of the award receives a statue of a gold miner, cast from a sculpture by Lorenzo Ghiglieri.