After 71 years of philanthropic work and advancements in agriculture, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation announced the next step in its legacy on Wednesday.
The announcement was made in the Ardmore Convention Center detailing the organization’s separation of its research and education operations from its philanthropic activities. The organization’s research and education activities will be conducted under a new name, the Noble Research Institute. The granting and scholarship programs of the organization will be placed into a private foundation and will maintain the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation name.
“The Noble Foundation is going to take a big, bold step forward,” Bill Buckner, president and CEO of the Noble Foundation, said. “And this definitely connects the tremendous accomplishments of the Noble Foundation’s past to a future that is bright and filled with new opportunities.”
Buckner explained the split through the lens of the organization’s history, citing Lloyd Noble’s original vision of being charitable and advancing agriculture. The organization made the change technically on May 1 of this year, but wanted to make the official announcement “a special occasion.” Standing with Jessie Nance on stage, Buckner pulled away a black curtain to reveal the Noble Research Institute’s green and blue laced logo and phrase—“Science Serving Agriculture.”
Buckner explained the split will not change the location of the organization, no
employees will be eliminated or terminated and the grant and scholarship programs will remain unchanged. The governing board of the organization will also remain the same, though some changes in the leadership structure have been made. The Noble Research Institute and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will coexist on the campus, though the Noble Foundation will be limited to the offices associated with philanthropy.
Buckner then asked Steven Rhines, director of public affairs, to address the “why” of the change after 71 years of being only the Noble Foundation.
Rhines explained that current organization is deemed a 501(c)(3) private nonprofit foundation by the Internal Revenue Service, which is well-suited for the philanthropic aspects of the foundation, but created limitations for research, commercialization and partnerships. The creation of the Noble Research Institute will allow for the organization to apply for the 501(c)(3) public charity designation, which will be better fit for the research and education activities of the institute.
Rhines said that legislation passed by Congress in 2015 change the tax code to create agricultural research organizations, a form of 501(c)(3) public charity that focus on agricultural research. The Noble Research Institute has already applied for the designation, according to Rhines. After approval from the IRS, the organization will undergo a 60-month transition process in the conversion from a private foundation to an agricultural research organization.
The separation opens the door for the Noble Research Institute to explore collaborations, expand funding sources, expand licensing and technological advancement commercialization. The organization will also be able to expand its advocacy and voice in the agriculture community where it was limited previously, according to Rhines.
“As a single entity, the organization served many audiences with diverse interests,” Buckner said. “By separating our activities into two organizations, each new organization can now build its respective name around its specific operations and build new relationships that were otherwise unavailable.”
Buckner said the organization’s passion is a large part of its legacy—both in the realm of philanthropy and agriculture.
“This truly is a historic transition in our history,” he said. “It wasn’t a decision we took lightly when we made this decision and the Ardmore community has always counted on us and you can continue to count on us now and into the future.”