About Us

Who we are

Mission: Linking community resources with Nashville Public Schools to help young people achieve academic success and prepare for life.

Students thrive in school when given the opportunities to be successful. We are one of the nation's largest networks of businesses, universities, faith-based organizations and volunteers engaged in public schools. With more than 800 PENCIL Partners directly supporting Nashville students and teachers every day, we believe that community involvement is key to students' academic success. PENCIL is a registered 501(c)(3).


What we do

It's simple - we recruit businesses that support MNPS schools with resources and volunteers. These volunteers tutor elementary school students to get them reading on grade level. These volunteers share technical skills with high school students to prepare them for college and career. These volunteers donate school supplies to our LP PENCIL Box to increase the resources available to all students across the district.

PENCIL History

On April 1, 1982, PENCIL Foundation opened its doors after several months of collaborative planning by Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools administrators and community and business leaders. These leaders realized that a strong public school system was essential to a healthy future for Nashville and that broad-based support and involvement from the community, including the private sector, were imperative.

Sue Spickard, President of Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Council and sustaining member of the Junior League of Nashville, and Rosalind McGee, President of the League of Women Voters, co-chaired a committee to gather information on successful school-community partnerships.   This data was employed in building community support for Nashville public schools. The committee established PENCIL Foundation as a non-profit organization with these goals:

  • Creating a vital link between the private sector and public education
  • Increasing understanding of and appreciation for the public school system
  • Promoting community involvement in student learning
  • Securing a strong commitment from business leaders to help provide materials and resources necessary for schools to meet the needs of their students

A number of business leaders, including Ed Nelson of Commerce Union Bank and Bronson Ingram of Ingram Industries, helped bring the goals of PENCIL Foundation to the business community and gain its support for the schools.  A steering committee that included John Hardcastle, Walter Hale II, Vic Campbell, Ralph Mosley, Allen McCampbell and Charles Wray completed the details for forming the new organization.

Brent Poulton from Tennessee State University’s Center for Community Education became PENCIL Foundation’s first executive director.  Donald McNaughton of Hospital Corporation of America was named the foundation’s first board chairman. Bronson Ingram, Edward G. Nelson, Charles W. Cook, Jr., Raymond Zimmerman, Carroll Shanks, Shirley Zeitlin, Bill Wire, Frank Warren, Dale Polley, DeWitt Ezell, Jr., Vic Campbell, Ron DeBerry, Don Williamson, Clyde Ingalls, Sue Spickard, DeVan Ard, Jr., Sue Atkinson, Byron Trauger, Enrico Pennisi, Robert Fisher, Jeff Gregg, Jennie Renwick, John Gauder, Denine Torr, Kathy Nevill, and John Doerge  have also served as board chairmen. Beth Brill, HCA, is PENCIL's current Chairman of the Board.

For more than 30 years, PENCIL Foundation has maintained strong ties with local businesses, community organizations, and Nashville public schools. 

PENCIL Foundation’s major accomplishment has been the creation of PENCIL Partners (originally called Adopt-a-School).  Beginning with 37 “adoptions” in 1982-83, the program has grown to include over 800 community-school partnerships that enhance the education of more than 80,000 students in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

Watch our video - The Big Payback