A Lifetime of Community Service: The Dayton Foundation Says Goodbye to Two Former Governing Board Chairs


The Dayton Foundation and Greater Dayton have lost two champions and longtime volunteers following the recent passing of former Governing Board Chairs John E. Moore, Sr., and Robert S. Neff.

A World War II veteran and retired chief of civilian personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, John Moore joined the Foundation’s Governing Board in 1972. John helped to bring the Foundation from virtual obscurity to recognition as a true player in the community. He was a voice for the voiceless, and time and again led seemingly impossible battles that changed the face of philanthropy in the region; had a profound impact on the education of our most at-risk youth; expanded support that provided new employment opportunities to tens of thousands of local residents; and celebrated diversity by working to build a more diverse, skilled workforce.

I knew Mr. Moore for not only helping young people out, but for doing everything in his power to make sure that the disadvantaged and the people of color are given a fair shake...
– William Gillispie, Dayton Foundation Governing Board member

“John Moore’s wisdom and tireless energy was a guiding light for all of us in the community. As the Foundation’s first African-American Governing Board Member and later Chair, John had the unfailing commitment to break down barriers of race and class in our community,” said Michael M. Parks, CFRE, president of The Dayton Foundation. “He couldn’t have been a more devoted community leader, blazing trails to advocate for others. Whatever was needed, John was there to help in any way possible. He will always have our great gratitude and deepest respect.”

His vision to increase minorities’ role as grantmakers became a reality during his chairmanship of the Board in 1991. John, along with then fellow Governing Board Member Lloyd E. Lewis, Jr., launched the nationally recognized and groundbreaking African-American Community Fund (AACF) under the umbrella of The Dayton Foundation to empower the African-American community philanthropically. Today, AACF’s 190 funds collectively total more than $7 million in assets.

Other notable achievements of John Moore included serving as a founding supporter of the Dayton-Montgomery County Scholarship Program; chairing the Dayton Self Sufficiency Program, a five-year effort launched in 1987 to help Montgomery County young adults overcome obstacles to economic independence; aiding in the creation of Montgomery County’s Human Services Levy; founding Parity’s Black Leadership Development Program; serving a leadership role in the creation of the Montgomery County Job Center, and chairing the Foundation’s Diversity Task Force established in 1999 to focus community leaders to see that everyone, regardless of race, had equal access to opportunity.

Like his board and committee affiliations, his list of awards is long and includes Montgomery County 1997 Citizen of the Year, 50th Citizen Legion of Honor Award by the Presidents Club, and 2016 Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame inductee, to name a few. Prestigious titles and accolades aside, what mattered most to John was using his seemingly endless energy and resources to make a difference in his community.

Community leader, retired Deputy City Manager for the City of Dayton and member of The Dayton Foundation’s Governing Board William Gillispie said, “Mr. Moore created some institutions for this community that are still going on and that will live long after none of us are here. I knew Mr. Moore for not only helping young people out, but for doing everything in his power to make sure that the disadvantaged and the people of color are given a fair shake for all the things that they deserve in this com-munity. He will be sorely missed but not forgotten.”

Robert S. Neff

A member of the Foundation’s Governing Board starting in 1993, Bob Neff served as chair from 2000 to 2003. During Bob’s tenure, the Foundation nearly quadrupled in its size of assets – from $61 million to $235 million – and moved from a role as “passive monetary conduit to active facilitator for important community efforts,” he said in 2003. Significant accomplishments under his chairmanship included assistance in launching The Job Center, Schuster Performing Arts Center, Out-of-School Youth Task Force, Teacher Leadership Academy, Five Rivers MetroParks’ Riverscape and the Foundation’s Diversity Initiative, among others.

Bob Neff and the Neff family’s legacy can be summed up in their belief in community service. As stated in a 2004 Dayton Foundation Good News article, his “father and mother, Robert C. and Dorothy S. Neff, his father’s family, his wife and children, all share a commitment to community volunteerism and philanthropy.”

We are blessed to have called [Bob Neff] a friend, donor and dedicated volunteer, who helped to forward Greater Dayton into the future.
– Michael M. Parks, president of The Dayton Foundation

“As a great community leader, Bob Neff lent his support and expertise to many local organizations, including the YMCA and its Camp Kern, the Masonic Temple, Sinclair Community College and so many more. Bob was one of The Dayton Foundation’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters,” Mike Parks said. “He always was willing to do whatever was needed to help the Foundation in any way possible. We are blessed to have called him a friend, donor and dedicated volunteer, who helped to forward Greater Dayton into the future.”

In 1986, Bob Neff established the Neff Family Fund advised by him and his children to focus the community philanthropic commitments of three generations of Neffs.

Said current Dayton Foundation Governing Board Chair Marva Cosby, “I was a member of the Sinclair Board of Trustees when Bob served as Board Chair. Chair Neff ran the most efficient meetings – always starting and ending on time. We all respected his disciplined approach to meetings. Bob’s support of initiatives such as the Out of School Youth Program, designed to reengage high school dropouts, adds richness to his legacy of community service. His presence will be sorely missed in Greater Dayton.”