Charles Thomas — A More Beautiful World: On Life and Meaning

charles thomas

Charles Thomas is creating a more beautiful and connected world. He is a program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He invests foundation funds in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of the city of Charlotte – one of the cities where the Knight brothers once published a newspaper. Charles is the former founding executive director of Queen City Forward, a hub for social entrepreneurs. His work included launching the organization and building programs to support social entrepreneurship and civic innovation. Charles is also a professional photographer and artist who earlier in his career served as director of education for The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film. He began his career working as a consultant for Andersen Consulting (Accenture). Charles earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University.

This episode is perfect for anyone interested in grant-making and community building, and a personal quest to create greater equity and connection in the world.

In This Episode
In This Episode


  • Charles explains what he does as a program director and the mission of the Knight Foundation.
  • He shares the conversation the Knight Foundation is having behind the scenes about their investments and what Knight is seeking to accomplish.
  • He talks about how Knight is exploring the impacts of Artificial Intelligence on journalism and concerns about computer-generated news and commentary.
  • Charles reveals what is top of mind for him as he sits at the Knight Foundation table, the typical day of a program director, and what makes for a good grant application.
  • He shares his strategy as a program director for Charlotte and the challenges and opportunities he is facing in his role.
  • He discusses what he would fund if he was investing his own monies and how and why he wants to get better at his job.
  • He talks about what’s frustrating him at work, what he’s learning to do, and what he knows now about himself now that he didn’t know when he took the job.
  • Charles describes growing up, being raised as an only child by a single mom, and how the absence of his father influenced him.
  • He reads from an article he wrote about the Keith Lamont Scott shooting in Charlotte and his hopes and vision for the city.
  • He shares his mission and purpose and what sustains him.
  • Charles discusses what’s important in life and his sense of destiny.

Mark Peres adds a personal word that begins this way, “This is what I know about Charlie Thomas.  He has a larger vision of himself based on a more beautiful and connected world…”

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