Northrop Family Honored for Local Philanthropy

October 24, 2018

The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) is pleased to announce that it has renamed its Philanthropist of the Year Award to the Northrop Family Excellence Award for Community Philanthropy in recognition of the Northrop Family’s tremendous support of the Washington County community during their 116 years of ownership of the Observer-Reporter and Observer Publishing Company (OPC). 

The Foundation created the Philanthropist of the Year award in 1999 to recognize local philanthropists for exceptional generosity to the Washington County community.  In selecting future honorees for the Northrop Family Excellence Award for Community Philanthropy, the criteria will remain the same as the previous Philanthropist of the Year Award.  Those criteria are as follows: Demonstrated exceptional generosity, relative to one’s ability to give, through personal financial gifts to local charitable causes; Demonstrated encouragement and motivation of others to financially support local charitable causes; Documented efforts to improve the quality of life in Washington County through volunteer leadership of local charitable and other community activities; and Documented efforts to advance philanthropy in general. 

The award will be presented to the Northrop Family at the Foundation’s annual Philanthropy Banquet, scheduled this year for Thursday, November 1, 2018, at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe.  Proceeds from the event will support the Community Foundation, including the Northrop Family Fund which makes grants to charities in Washington County.  Accepting the award on behalf of his family will be Thomas P. Northrop.

“To be a successful community newspaper, you need to be part of the community,” remarked Northrop, who served as the most recent President & Publisher of the Observer-Reporter. 

And to the Northrop Family, being a “part of the community” has always meant being involved in charitable giving and service. 

Over the years, countless charitable organizations and activities have received generous support from the Northrop Family either directly or through the OPC and its employees.  Just a few include: United Way, Leadership Washington County, Washington Hospital Board and Washington Hospital Foundation, Washington & Jefferson College, Waynesburg University, PONY Baseball, Newspapers in Education, Whiskey Rebellion Festival, as well as the Washington, Waynesburg, and McMurray Rotary Clubs.  Additionally, for more than 30 years, staff members have helped to provide those in need with Thanksgiving meals through the 2000 Turkeys campaign, which was founded by an OPC employee. 

At the direction of the Northrop Family, the paper has covered the local non-profit community extensively: running news articles on programs, fundraising efforts, and awards, as well as donating advertising space.  The WCCF consistently received extraordinary coverage throughout its 24-year relationship with the Observer-Reporter, as nearly every news release issued to the paper was shared with the community in some way, and special attention was always given to significant announcements.  For instance, each November a story on the Philanthropist of the Year honoree could always be found on the front page above the fold. There is no way to quantify the benefits of that publicity.  For its incredible commitment to corporate giving, the OPC was awarded the WCCF’s Charles C. Keller Excellence Award for Corporate Philanthropy in 2014.  For their individual commitment to charitable giving, John Northrop and William Northrop Sr. received the Philanthropist of the Year Award in 2002.

“There are few families in the region who have made such a broad, long-standing impact on local philanthropy as the Northrop Family,” remarked Betsie Trew, WCCF President and CEO.  “They were a driving force behind the creation of the WCCF, and through their financial contributions, both as a family and individually, they helped set us on a path for future success. John and Rose Northrop and the Observer Publishing Company have attained the prestigious ‘Founder’s Circle’ status in our Family of Founders recognition society and Tom and Peggy Northrop were one of the first members of our Golden Oak Guild recognition society.”

The Northrop Family has given more than financial contributions and free publicity to local charities; they have given generously of their time and talents by serving on a multitude of local boards.  Both John Northrop and Tom Northrop have served as Chairman of the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees, the only father-son duo to have done so.  William Northrop, Sr. is a past Chairman of the United Way of Washington County, and Lucy Northrop Corwin currently serves on the Board of the Community Foundation of Greene County. 

For the Northrop Family, community philanthropy is an inherited trait that can be traced back to Tom Northrop’s great-grandfather, John L. Stewart, who led the charge nearly a century ago to raise money for the Washington Hospital which was struggling financially at that time.  Stewart’s widow, Margaretta Stewart, continued her husband’s commitment to the community by serving as a driving force behind the preservation of the David Bradford House in Washington more than 50 years ago, as well as numerous other community causes.  Four generations later, the Northrop Family continued to give generously to the Washington County community.  For their decades of commitment and generations of community philanthropy, the WCCF leadership felt compelled to rename its most significant award for community philanthropy to the Northrop Family Excellence Award for Community Philanthropy.

To make a reservation to the Philanthropy Banquet or to make a gift to the Northrop Family Fund, please contact the Community Foundation at 724-222-6330 or