Nan Ogburn Cullman fund establishes legacy in Johnston County

This post was updated in April 2024.

In 2018, the Johnston County Community Foundation made its first awards from the Nan Ogburn Cullman Education Endowment for Johnston County. This fund, established in 2018, honors the causes and passions Cullman championed throughout her life.

At 15, Cullman won a scholarship to attend the Julliard School. Upon graduation, she performed with regional opera companies and other chorales throughout her life. Though Cullman was an avid lover of the arts, no role she performed spoke to her more than that of Fiordiligi from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte.

Cullman ventured in to new terrain without fear, as she was one of the first people to obtain a visa to hike through Bhutan, a small county between Tibet and India. “Long before Sheryl Sandberg challenged women to lean in, my mother was jumping in,” said Cullman’s daughter, Alexandra Haslingden, in the obituary. In addition to riding camels with the Tuareg tribe through the mountains of Algeria, Cullman’s travel pursuits also sent her to both Mount Everest and to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Smithfield native married Hugh Cullman, son of Broadway “angel” and Port Authority Chairman Howard S. Cullman in 1951. They made their home in Westchester County, NY, for the next 40 years. Dedicated to serving her community, Cullman spent her life volunteering in hospitals and churches and serving on the boards of Youth Consultation Services of New York and the North Carolina Symphony. In 1993, the Cullmans returned to NC, making a home in Beaufort and then relocating to Pittsboro.

The Nan Ogburn Cullman Education Endowment for Johnston County was created to support Smithfield-Selma Senior High School faculty and staff in giving grants to school programs that promote the arts, travel and leadership among students.

“We work to ensure that this endowment continually honors Mrs. Cullman’s goals to benefit educational purposes in her beloved Johnston County,” said NCCF President and CEO Jennifer Tolle Whiteside.

The Nan Ogburn Cullman Endowment has awarded over $400,000 to Smithfield-Selma Senior High School since it was established.

The living legacy Nan Ogburn Cullman left behind has the potential to positively impact the lives of students at Smithfield-Selma High School and the lives of those in Johnston County.

“NCCF is so honored to be managing this fund,” said NCCF staff member Beth Boney Jenkins. “Nan Ogburn Cullman and this endowment in her memory echo what the NCCF is all about—people giving back to the communities they love.”

Written by Emily Blevins, 2018 NCCF Intern