Former teacher leaves $2.7 million bequest

"Neill" Bullock Wilkins
“Neill” Bullock Wilkins

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – In 2006, when one of her professional advisers invited her to a luncheon hosted by the Cumberland Community Foundation, Flora Cornelia “Neill” Bullock Wilkins had had little or no connection with the organization.

But before she died in June 2007 at age 88, the former schoolteacher, who was known to have led a quiet, frugal life, worked with her advisers to create a $2.7 million bequest through her will to the foundation, its biggest gift ever.

“The largest gifts usually come from good people who lived quietly in service to family, church and community,” says Mary Holmes, the foundation’s executive director. “More and more, the foundation is receiving large gifts from individuals who put a few words in their wills and change the world.”

The gift from Wilkins, whose estate was settled in June, was among 1,461 gifts totaling $7.1 million that the foundation received in the fiscal year ended June 30, the most it ever has received in a single year.

“In the worst economy since the foundation’s start in 1980, we received the most gifts,” Holmes says. “Gift development is a long-term process and is not always sensitive to the economy.”

In fact, she says, just over two-thirds of all gifts to the foundation total less than $250.

“The large gifts get more attention from the public,” she says, “But every gift is important to the community foundation.”

Born on a farm near Autryville, her father’s ancestral homestead in Cumberland County, “Neill” Wilkins was the youngest of five daughters of Buckner “Buck” G. Bullock and Maggie Downing Bullock.

She taught seventh-grade English at Alexander Graham Junior High School in Fayetteville until she married Samuel B. Wilkins Jr., a physician at the Veterans
Administration hospital in Fayetteville.

The couple, who never had children, later lived in Georgia and Tennessee, where Dr. Wilkins had jobs at Veterans Administration facilities, before they retired to Fayetteville in the mid-1970s.

Mrs. Wilkins’ gift will create the Cornelia “Neill” Bullock Wilkins Charitable Endowment Fund.

To be administered by the foundation, the endowment will provide annual support for programs that benefit senior citizens; health-care programs; education programs, possibly including scholarships; and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, one of her favorite charities.

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