Nancy Regan: 1938–2021

Nancy Regan

The Culture & Animals Foundation mourns the passing of its co-founder, Nancy Regan, in Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday October 20, aged 83. You can read her obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer, where you can post reflections on her legacy. The CAF board’s reflections are below.

In Memoriam Nancy Regan 1938–2021

The Culture & Animals Foundation (CAF) mourns the passing of its co-founder, Nancy Regan, in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 20th. With her late husband, Tom, Nancy started CAF in 1985. It was because of her interest in the arts that CAF made a commitment to supporting artists of all kinds in their promotion of animal rights.

Nancy had heard about Los Angeles–based performance artist Rachel Rosenthal (1926–2015), who brought animals on stage to open people’s hearts and minds to the “others” with whom they share the Earth. Nancy was struck by the celebratory nature of the event—animal advocacy that used art and culture to raise awareness. Nancy’s vision, complemented by her husband Tom’s academic leadership as a philosopher, helped CAF shape its mission and work.

For more than three decades Tom and Nancy stewarded CAF, giving out annual grants to scholars and artists, and from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, hosting the International Compassionate Living Festival, in Raleigh. At the festivals, advocates, scholars, and artists shared their passion for, knowledge about, and engagement with the rights of animals.

In 2020, Nancy retired from the CAF board, and earlier in 2021, CAF announced the first Nancy Regan Arts Prize. The inaugural winner was Hong Kong–based cartoonist Joan Chan Wing Yan. Nancy is survived by her daughter, Karen (who joined the CAF board in 2020), and son Bryan, and four grandchildren.

“I loved Nancy for her warmth, unpredictability, and vision,” said Gary Comstock,  friend, former CAF board member, and Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University, where Tom taught for 34 years. “She always had hummus, olives, pita bread, and wine for visitors—and there was a steady stream of us in the Regan front room. There, she shared her opinions with nothing less than the most admirable tenacity. It was her idea to create an organization to advance our appreciation of animals by offering support to artists.”

He concludes: “I celebrate Nancy’s life knowing that I’m not alone. Hundreds of people around the world—lovers of animals and of beauty—count her and her Foundation as their benefactor. We’ve lost a true leader.”

The President of CAF, Mia MacDonald, reflected: “Nancy was one of a kind: Incisive, dogged, funny, and opinionated. She was a wonderful and careful nurturer of people, animals, and CAF. Nancy served for decades as the main point of contact for grant-seekers and individuals and organizations interested in CAF’s work. Few who met or emailed with Nancy will forget that experience.”

Mia adds: “We have lost a remarkable person. All of us associated with CAF join the Regan family in mourning Nancy. In future, we look forward to celebrating her life and the indelible imprint she left on CAF, and this world.”