The Lambeth Lectureship was established in 2006 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the generous gift of an anonymous donor. Presented annually, its purpose is to bring to campus distinguished speakers who are practitioners or scholars of public policy, particularly those whose work touches on the fields of education, ethics, democratic institutions, and civic engagement. The lectureship is administered by the Lambeth Lecture Committee, composed of faculty members, students, and distinguished individuals engaged in public policy, in collaboration with UNC Public Policy.
The Lecture honors Thomas Willis Lambeth, who led the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation as its executive director for more than two decades until his retirement in 2000. Born in Clayton, North Carolina, Lambeth graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in history, and served as administrative assistant to Governor Terry Sanford and to U.S. Representative Richardson Preyer before being named to lead the Foundation in 1978. Described by one journalist as “the state’s do-gooder-in-chief,” Lambeth throughout his career has exemplified the qualities of personal integrity, a passionate devotion to education, democracy, and civic engagement, and wholehearted pursuit of the ideals of the public good and of progressive and innovative ways of achieving it. During his tenure, the Reynolds Foundation awarded grants totaling more than $260 million to address many of North Carolina’s most pressing public policy issues, particularly social justice and equity, governance and civic engagement, community-building and economic development, education, and protection of the state’s natural environment. Tom Lambeth also has made a strong personal impact on many key public policy issues in North Carolina and nationally, including leadership of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, Leadership North Carolina, the North Carolina Rural Center, and a task force of the national Institute of Medicine on the problems of people who lack medical insurance. He also has been a national leader in improving the management and effectiveness of family philanthropic foundations themselves.