Martha Rivers Ingram

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Martha Rivers Ingram
Vanderbilt Commencement Zeppos Ingram.jpg
Ingram (left) at the 2008 Vanderbilt Commencement; (right) Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos
Born Martha Robinson Rivers
(1935-08-20) August 20, 1935 (age 79)
Charleston, South Carolina
Nationality American
Alma mater Vassar College
Occupation Chairman, Ingram Industries
Known for Entrepreneur, philanthropist, arts patron
Net worth $4.2 billion (March 2015)[1]
Title Chairman, Vanderbilt University Board of Trust
Religion Episcopalian
Spouse(s) E. Bronson Ingram (deceased)
Partner(s) Kenneth Schermerhorn (deceased)
Children Orrin H. Ingram II
John R. Ingram
David B. Ingram
Robin Bigelow Ingram Patton

Martha Robinson Rivers Ingram (born August 20, 1935) is the chairman of Ingram Industries, former chairman of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, and a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts. She was married to the late E. Bronson Ingram, who inherited his father's petroleum and barge empire in 1963. In 1995, Martha Ingram succeeded her late husband as chairman and chief executive officer of Ingram Industries, one of America's largest privately held companies.[2] At the time, she was better known for her commitment to the arts in Nashville, Tennessee, where she and Bronson made their home. She has since become a respected executive in her own right.[3]

Early life[edit]

Martha Robinson Rivers was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Minott and Martha Elizabeth Robinson Rivers. She graduated from Ashley Hall in Charleston and then enrolled at Vassar College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1957.

Upon graduation, she found employment at WCSC-AM/FM and WCSC-TV, a radio and television station, respectively, owned by her father. After a year and a half at the stations, her broadcasting career ended when she renewed her friendship with Bronson, whom she had dated during her time at Vassar. The two eventually married on October 4, 1958, at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston.[3]

Nashville and the arts[edit]

The Ingrams first settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, before eventually moving to Nashville. While Bronson was engaged with his family's business interests in the city, Martha raised the couple's four children and devoted herself to the local arts scene. After her appointment to the advisory board of the Kennedy Center in 1972, she began to work to develop a local performing arts facility. While the idea initially met considerable resistance, her eight-year fight gave rise to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC), a three-theatre facility located in downtown Nashville.

Much later, she would help develop the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which opened in 2005 and houses the Nashville Symphony. The center is named for the late Kenneth Schermerhorn, with whom Ingram was romantically linked after her husband's death.[4]

Her contributions to the arts, as well as her work in the volunteer community, in Nashville were recognized by The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. when they awarded her with the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award in 1999.

Ingram Industries and later life[edit]

Soon after Martha's work with TPAC, Bronson invited her to join him at Ingram Industries. She accepted the invitation, becoming Director of Public Affairs at the company in 1979.[3] After her husband's death in 1995, she became chairman of the board. The family spun off Ingram Micro as a public company, and now operate the remainder of the corporation as a privately owned business. What would become Ingram Entertainment, which distributes home videos and video games, was sold to David Ingram, Martha's youngest son. Ingram Industries now comprises Ingram Book Group, a leading book distributor; Ingram Marine Group; and Ingram Insurance Group. One son, Orrin, is president and CEO; another, John, is vice chairman. Martha's daughter, Robin Ingram Patton, is a member of the Ingram board of directors.[3]


Martha Ingram has ranked 524th on the Forbes list of richest people and is prominent in Nashville society for her philanthropy. Her philanthropic focus has been education and the arts, including theatre, opera, and the symphony in Tennessee. She was honored by Business Week as the 50th most generous philanthropist for her donations between the years 2000 and 2004.[5][6][7] In 2006 she was honored by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee as the 2006 recipient of the 13th Annual Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award for her philanthropic efforts.[5][8] In October 2010, she was honored by the Americans for the Arts, an organization for advancing the arts in America, for her exemplary national leadership and work which demonstrated extraordinary artistic achievement. She received the Eli & Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts.[2]

She serves as a board member of the Spoleto Festival USA, Ingram Micro, Regions Financial Corporation, and Weyerhaeuser. Her other philanthropic commitments include the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville Opera, and Nashville Ballet. She is also the chairman for the Nashville Symphony Association, and the vice-chairman for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. She is responsible for having helped develop the Schermerhorn Symphony Center which opened in 2005.[2][5][9] She formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Trust of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The Vanderbilt Blair School of Music has been the recipient of $300 million of Ingram company stock.[5][9]