Elizabeth “Betty” Cone
Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy
Nominated by Fellowship Hall, The Carolina Theater of Greensboro, and ArtsGreensboro
Elizabeth “Betty” Ward Cone is a native of Winston-Salem and a longtime resident of Greensboro who has dedicated her life to enhancing the cultural vibrancy and educational strength of the Triad.
The daughter of a state senator and schoolteacher, Betty was dubbed Greensboro’s downtown diva by Greensboro News & Record in 2013, citing her as an “irreplaceable cultural force in Greensboro, adept as a fundraiser and mobilizer.”
She attended what was then known as the Woman’s College in Greensboro (now known as UNCG) and completed her degree in mathematics at UNC Chapel Hill, where she met her husband, Benjie Cone. The couple moved to Greensboro in 1969, and she immediately plugged in to Greensboro’s artistic community by joining the boards of the Eastern Music Festival Auxiliary and the United Arts Council (now ArtsGreensboro), becoming that organization’s first chairwoman. By 1977, Betty was managing Fun Fourth—Greensboro’s long-running Independence Day festival. Before long, she was fighting to save the Carolina Theatre from demolition. Her leadership and efforts saved the theatre and laid the groundwork for the city to develop the Greensboro Cultural Center, which remains the home to many nonprofit arts groups.
With the help of Sam Hummel and others, Betty formed Grassroots Productions in 1981 to celebrate the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The group later took on the production of the Fun Fourth and the Festival of Lights in downtown Greensboro.
Her relentless drive and motivation to preserve and present the arts, after 52 years in Greensboro, is alive and well. Currently, she serves as honorary Board Chair at the Carolina Theatre of Greensboro, where she has spent the last three years on the “Setting the Stage” Capital Campaign Committee. The effort is working to raise $3 million to renovate both the main stage and The Crown, a 150-seat black-box theatre located on the third floor of the historic theatre.
Among many other prior accolades, Betty was recently recognized with NCCJ’s Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award (2021), including the O. Henry Award presented by ArtsGreensboro and the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce in 2016. She was also named a Top Ten Leader by Women to Women in 2015. She is a former Trustee of the North Carolina Arts Council Board, A&T State University Board, Wake Forest University Board of Visitors, UNC Chapel Hill Board of Visitors, and the UNCSA Board of Trustees and Board of Visitors.
When not working to raise support for the arts in Greensboro, Betty and her family operate their commercial blueberry farm and Cone’s Folly Timber Farm in Pender County.