It was a tough week for those of us lucky enough to work with people who make things happen in our community.
First we lost Sandra Shaw, the long-time director of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Sandi is credited with transforming Bert Nash from a small organization to a statewide leader in providing comprehensive community mental health services to a growing Douglas County population. She was also active on several boards, including Van Go and the Kansas Land Trust.
When I started at the Douglas County Community Foundation in 2004, Sandi had retired from Bert Nash and maintained an office for her private practice in the suite next door to ours. I arrived on my first day of work to learn that I had no office. After spying me working in our conference room, Sandi offered to let me use her office when she wasn’t there — gratis.
So I spent the better part of my first year at DCCF working in Sandi’s space, surrounded by her artwork and mementos of significant moments in her career and relationships. Hers was a life well lived.
Then, midweek, came the news that George Woodyard had died.
George held many leadership positions at KU, and was also very active in Rotary and the Lawrence Community Theater. I met him in the early 1980s when I was in my early 20s and managing conferences at KU. George was in charge of a series of Kassebaum conferences on international affairs. I was very green and made my share of mistakes. But he always treated me as a fellow professional.
A few years ago, George and I crossed paths again. He and his wife Eleanor set up a fund at DCCF to support their charitable giving.
He was instrumental in developing the Rotary Arboretum, and was leading the capital campaign for the Community Theater. When I read his obituary, it was clear that these were just two of the many causes he championed in his lifetime.
At the end of the week, I learned that Ross Beach has passed away. Ross might be described as a captain of industry in Kansas. Among his many business interests was Douglas County Bank.
Ross and his wife, Marianna, have been among the state’s most generous philanthropists, establishing the Beach Center at KU and an art museum at Kansas State, among other things.
DCCF was fortunate to benefit from the Beaches’ generosity at a time when we were evolving from a start-up to an established foundation.
Ross was active on our foundation board for a couple of years and, since then, has maintained emeritus status. He had a remarkable ability to quickly get to the heart of a matter. He had the resume to act like a big shot, but he never did.
Ross rolled out the welcome mat and invited our board to meet in the bank’s conference room. To this day, we meet there monthly. Douglas County Bank exemplifies all that is good about a community bank.
So we closed the week with a heavy heart, but also with the knowledge that many young Lawrence leaders have the potential to make their own unique contributions to our community.
They may not exactly fill the shoes of Sandi, George and Ross, but with some encouragement and folks like these as role models, they will create their own footprints.
— Marilyn Hull is program and communications officer for the Douglas County Community Foundation and a contributor to WellCommons.com, the Journal-World’s community health web site.