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Feb 16, 2023 |

It is with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, the former President of Toyota and longtime friend and supporter of NCFL. He was a visionary and a pioneer in the automotive industry, and his contributions to the success of Toyota—as well as to families in American communities—are immeasurable. 

While he will be known for his legacy in automotive mobility, he leaves behind another important legacy of supporting millions of families in their multigenerational educational pursuits. In addition to spearheading the Toyota Motor Corporation for years, Dr. Toyoda was known for his philanthropic work, and he was a passionate advocate for education. In the early 1990s, Dr. Toyoda led Toyota’s Corporate Citizenship Activity Committee, and it was in this committee that Toyota’s executives recognized the power of NCFL’s work. He later spoke on this in NCFL’s 2019 book, “Grit, Grace & Gratitude,” saying, “When I first met Sharon [Darling, founder of NCFL] thirty years ago, I was deeply impressed with her great vision that ‘parents and children learn together,’...Sharon’s vision soon became ours.”

NCFL Founder Sharon Darling sits looking at a document with Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda and other Toyota executives, circa 1990
NCFL Founder Sharon Darling sits looking at a document
with Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda and other Toyota executives, circa 1990

In 1991, Dr. Toyoda provided Toyota’s first donation to NCFL to establish a model literacy and learning program, focused on preschool children and their parents, called the Toyota Families for Learning Initiative. Since then, NCFL has continuously partnered with Toyota for more than 30 years on initiatives that resulted in more than $50 million supporting families and communities throughout the country.

Dr. Toyoda made multiple trips to the United States to see firsthand communities and families benefiting from Toyota’s philanthropy through NCFL’s model programming. 

During his visit to Louisville, Kentucky in 2011, Dr. Toyoda and a family participating in family literacy engaged in a learning exercise together. Dr. Toyoda greatly enjoyed meeting the families who benefited from Toyota's contributions.
During his visit to Louisville, Kentucky in 2011, Dr. Toyoda and a family
participating in family literacy engaged in a learning exercise together. 

“For Toyota, supporting the work of NCFL is not only a privilege, but an opportunity. We are proud to consider NCFL as one of our signature programs, and one to which we have dedicated generous resources with outstanding results…We know that with NCFL, we are making an investment in families and communities.” – Dr, Toyoda, “Grit, Grace & Gratitude”

We need more leaders like Dr. Toyoda—leaders with a fierce commitment to philanthropy that’s focused on supporting children and parenting adults with lifelong learning opportunities, such as family literacy. We mourn the loss of this remarkable leader, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Rest in peace, Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website