Jo Bowen Nobbe: Equal Opportunity & Access to Education

Categories: Donor Story,

Editor's Note: As charitable giving continues to define our region’s growth and spirit, we will be sharing stories of our remarkable donors, past and present, who have entrusted us with their hopes, dreams, and visions for a better future. These individuals believed in the power of giving to others to strengthen our community with their timeless gifts, both during her lifetime and in the future.

This story is dedicated to the memory of Jo Bowen Nobbe, who believed in providing equal opportunity to students through education.

Jo Bowen Nobbe was a local philanthropist who strongly believed in the value of education and in providing equal opportunity and access for all students, entrusting this legacy to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County through several enduring funds.

Often described as a shy and private person by her friends, little is publicly known about Mrs. Nobbe. She moved to Sarasota with her husband in late 1960s, early 1970s from Maryland or Virginia, where her husband practiced law. The couple had no children and spent their summers on Hope Island in Canada.

In 1998, Nobbe donated her Bird Key home to the Community Foundation, which was sold for $1 million. This total was then used to create the Allen Wirtz Nobbe and Jo Bowen Nobbe Fund.

The fund's purpose remains the same to this day: to enhance the educational opportunities available to youth within Sarasota County, with an emphasis on providing scholarship assistance for students in need to attend college.

After Mrs. Nobbe passed away in January 2004 at the age of 92, she bequeathed $17 million to the Community Foundation, the largest gift ever received by the foundation at that time. According to a Herald-Tribune article that ran in February 2004, foundation staff were elated and surprised to receive such a gift, stating, “It’s a wonderful thing to see this kind of philanthropy from people that you don’t expect.” In that same article, Stewart Stearns, the Community Foundation's first President and CEO, remarked, "[this endowment] is a tremendous gift to our entire community, and it will have a huge impact on the lives of students for many, many years.”

Jo Bowen Nobbe entrusted the Community Foundation with its largest gift ever received at that time - $17 million in 2004 - to continue her passion for educational empowerment and opportunity.

Since 1998, Mrs. Nobbe’s total gifts have exceeded $17 million, with more than $11 million being granted out to area nonprofits and students. From supporting college and technical training to assisting with grade-level reading summer programs, Mrs. Nobbe's legacy has continued on through cause-driven nonprofits like the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Girls Inc. of Sarasota County, The Florida Center for Early Childhood, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, among many others.

Over the years, The Allen Wirtz Nobbe and Jo Bowen Nobbe Scholarship Fund has awarded some $3.2 million in scholarships to empower more than 1,100 students across Sarasota County to realize and achieve their educational dreams. Access to a path towards a brighter future through education. This is the enduring legacy of Jo Bowen Nobbe.

Read more stories from charitable individuals and families, both past and present.

Discover how you can Be The One to build the community you know to be possible.