George Allen Mebane IV believed that “All people learn on a different timeline. But if you create the right tool, everyone can learn at their own pace, and after a period of time, end up at the same destination.”
That belief, coupled with a commitment to helping others succeed, prompted him to establish the Mebane Foundation in 1998 to support innovative educational endeavors.
Born in Greensboro in 1929, Mr. Mebane grew up intrigued by the workings of his great-great-grandfather’s cotton mill. That fascination led him to the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University) and a very successful and distinguished career in the textile industry. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1952-54, he returned to North Carolina, where he would live and work the rest of his life. He was a native son who loved his state dearly.
Early in his career, he worked in sales, learning all aspects of the business from daily involvement with industry leaders. He was wired for textiles. A passion for business, a gift for understanding people, and uncanny instincts about where the marketplace was heading, prompted his meteoric rise in the textile industry.
He assumed his first executive position at 35 when he was named President and CEO of Throwing Corporation of America in 1964.
- An entrepreneur at heart, he left Throwing in 1967 and started Universal Textured Yarns, where he again served as President and CEO.
- After selling the company just four years later, he wasted no time in leading a group of investors in launching Unifi, Inc. in 1971. With headquarters in his hometown and a plant up the road in Yadkinville, the company enjoyed an auspicious start, posting an extraordinary $26 million in revenue during its first year.
- Under his leadership, Unifi never looked back. Over the next 30 years, Unifi’s annual sales soared to $1.5 billion, and it became the largest producer and processor of textured yarns in the world with plants in the United States, England, Brazil, and Ireland.
In 1969, while CEO of Universal Textured Yarns, Mr. Mebane established the Mebane Industrial School, an innovative program that paid people to attend classes to learn the fundamentals of education, and then guaranteed them a job at Universal. He believed that businessmen, as well as industry, had an obligation to their communities; and he knew that education and training would transform people’s lives by providing them with the skills and confidence needed to obtain a job that would allow them to support themselves and their families.
When he retired from Unifi in 2000, Mr. Mebane focused his full attention on ensuring that the Foundation he had started began helping children of all backgrounds reach their full potential through innovative, transformational school programs. He had a strong belief that all children should be afforded the opportunity to get a top-tier education that would help them move out of disadvantaged circumstances and into better jobs and more meaningful lives.
Mr. Mebane died on Nov. 14, 2008. The work of Mebane Foundation continues under the leadership of Board Chair Marianne Mebane, President Larry Colbourne and a very active Board of Directors.
Mr. Mebane believed that the quality of our nation’s future depended on the education of its young people. He also believed that the Foundation and its partners must focus on the entire experience of education instead of viewing it as just a place in time.
Mr. Mebane was adamant about keeping the focus of the Foundation on education. He would be happy to know that the Foundation he started and believed in so deeply continues to work with children and the school systems that serve them.