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Updated: March 4, 2024 / The WBJ Hall of Fame

WBJ Hall of Fame: Fletcher directs millions in giving to benefit the community

A man wearing a tan jacket and black turtleneck stares at the camera. Photo | Matt Wright Warner Flechter, director of Worcester law firm Fletcher Tilton

Warner Fletcher wasn’t always convinced he wanted to continue in his family’s business. It wasn’t until returning from a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy at 25 years old, he felt confident a career in law was the right choice.

Five decades later, Fletcher acts as a director of the 202-year-old Worcester law firm Fletcher Tilton, while helping to manage hundreds of millions in assets from his family-founded trusts.

“I’ve been blessed,” Fletcher said. “Not because of me, but because of some seats that I’ve gotten to sit in … I can have an input in distributing resources for important things in this community. That’s just luck. I just happened to get a chance to sit in these seats.”

A bio box on WBJ Hall of Famer Warner Fletcher
Warner Fletcher bio box

With a career spanning more than 50 years, Fletcher has prioritized funding the needs of Worcester’s education, arts, humanitarian, and social services spheres while providing legal counsel for estate planning and wealth preservation.

“This community benefits from both the social services as well as the educational and cultural,” Fletcher said.

After graduating from Boston University Law School, Fletcher began working as an attorney at Fletcher Tilton in 1973. The law firm was originally founded by Ira Moore Barton in 1822 and at one point was co-led by Warner’s father Paris Fletcher, who was heavily involved with Worcester foundations and nonprofits. When Warner joined the firm, it had less than a dozen lawyers. Specializing in trusts and estates, Warner went on to become partner and then one of the directors of Fletcher Tilton, which now has 42 practicing attorneys.

Like his father, Warner is heavily involved in the giving community, serving as chair of three of the city’s largest grant-making foundations, helping to manage more than $370 million in assets. These trusts – the George I. Alden Trust and his family-founded Stoddard Charitable Trust and Fletcher Foundation – granted $18 million in 2022 alone across hundreds of education institutions, nonprofits, and community agencies, including from Massachusetts YMCAs, Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, and Girls Inc. of Worcester via both applied for and unsolicited grants.

Beyond his family businesses, Fletcher serves as a board member and trustee for several nonprofit organizations including the Worcester Art Museum and the Worcester Animal Rescue League. Fletcher has been very intentional in cultivating a varied range of agencies to support.

“When I’m walking down Main Street, I don’t want to see you coming and be looking for the nearest doorway to enter because I haven't done something I should have,” he said. “That’s one of the best things about Worcester. People who have different philosophies and different priorities are more likely to be able to get together and amicably deal with the issue in a way that really moves the community forward and addresses important issues.”

Fletcher is committed to supporting organizations most in need of funding, said Mark Fuller, chairman and treasurer of the George F. & Sybil H. Fuller Foundation in Worcester.

“Warner speaks from the truth,” Fuller said via email to WBJ. “He is constantly being asked for a meeting, a phone call, a visit, or to read a proposal. He has learned how to be that person while being available and very fair. He thinks through the subject at hand, takes time to understand the issues, and then provides his guidance.”

Fletcher works to amalgamate resources across the foundations he serves in order to expand their impact. In the early 2000s, Fletcher had the idea to team up the Alden and Stoddard Trusts to give an unsolicited grant of $1.5 million to accelerate the building of the pool at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. To this day, this grant remains one of the closest to Fletcher’s heart.

More recently in 2019, the Fletcher Foundation and Stoddard Trust aligned resources to confer the nonprofit Music Worcester with $1.2 million. Just a few years later, the organizations granted Worcester-based healthcare provider UMass Memorial Health with $700,000 to support renovations and help provide urgent care, behavioral health, and emergency services.

“This community is still a small community,” Fletcher said. “There are enough connections that when something happens – good, bad, or indifferent – that needs to be attended to, this community has the means and the inclination and the willingness to work together to deal with whatever the issue is.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester was founded by Warner Fletcher's family. The trust was founded by educator and industrialist George Alden in 1912, and chairs of the trust’s board have included Fletcher and his father, Paris Fletcher.

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