John F. A. V. Cecil, Vice Chair
“I look around the board and every single member is driven by the same purpose. We may approach a topic from different perspectives, but it’s the plurality of thought, an aggregation of ideas, and through the many lenses which we’ve all learned that makes us better and stronger.”
Jack Cecil’s family connection to Western North Carolina goes back more than 125 years to his great-grandfather, George W. Vanderbilt. But while many in this region associate the Vanderbilt name with the renowned Biltmore Estate, the family’s most impressive legacy is creating life-changing opportunities for the citizens of Western North Carolina.
“When my great-grandfather moved to Western North Carolina, he saw how farming and development were destroying the region’s forests,” said Jack, “so he started the first forestry school in America to preserve the area’s natural beauty, while also creating economic opportunities for the people.”
Jack joined the family-owned Biltmore Farms, LLC in 1984 after earning an undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and his master’s from the American Graduate School of International Management. He has served as the company’s president since 1992 while respecting his family’s legacy through involvement in the region’s most important issues, from economic development, education and health care to the arts and the environment.
Specific community service roles include: Trustee of The Duke Endowment; director of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, board of directors of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina; the National Advisory Board for the Institute for Emerging Issues; North Carolina Economic Development Board; North Carolina Biotechnology Center; Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Commission; HandMade in America; Mission Health; UNC Board of Governors; and United Way of Asheville & Buncombe County.
Explaining his passion for serving on the Dogwood Health Trust Board, Jack says it’s a shared purpose and value that he attributes to his father’s commitment to community development and environmental stewardship: One is to leave things in a better place than you first found them.
“Enhancing the well-being of our community is a tremendous responsibility,” says Jack. “We have to keep our sights set on the long-term goals and not be whipsawed by short-term wins or losses. When we know ultimately what we want to achieve, it’s easier to work our way through the peaks and valleys. Just like hiking through our mountains, the journey can be both beautiful and challenging but also very rewarding.”