November 20, 2018
IN MEMORIAM: Suzanne F. Cohen
BCF Trustee Emerita
Many will join in celebrating the life of Suzanne F. Cohen over the days and weeks to come. Sue was an indomitable force in Baltimore philanthropy, a valued mentor to many, and a fierce advocate for the things she believed in most: art in its many forms, young people from infants to teens, and social justice as an inviolable principle.
Sue liked to point out that the Hebrew word “tzedakah”, often translated as “charity”, actually meant justice—and when she said the word, you could hear the italics. The joy that Sue found in philanthropy derived from the opportunity to pursue tzedakah. This is what made her eyes light up.
We were proud to count Sue among BCF’s trustees and supporters. She joined our board in 1989 and served as an active member of the board and committee leader until 2007, when she retired to the role of Honorary Trustee and later was named Trustee Emerita. In 2014 Sue agreed to serve as one of three co-chairs of The Campaign for BCF and Baltimore, a campaign which, thanks in no small part to Sue’s leadership, ultimately raised $104,000,000.
As skilled as Sue was in attracting charitable donations, she was much more interested in what could be done with the money to improve the lives of others. Sue was one of the founding board members of the Safe and Sound Campaign when it was birthed in 1998 at BCF and subsequently spun off to a separate entity. It was Sue who pushed BCF to respond to one of the community needs identified by Safe and Sound: high quality after-school opportunities for middle-school youth, and established A-Teams in 1999 as an initiative of BCF to address that need. Over five years, A-Teams involved some 7,000 children in professionally led academic, arts and athletic activities, and was subsequently folded into Baltimore City’s Baltimore Out-Of-School Time (BOOST) program. Sue often cited the success of A-Teams as one of her proudest moments.
When Middle Grades Partnership was established at BCF in 2005, Sue quickly became, and remained, an ardent supporter and advisor to the growing organization, noting that her investment in MGP “furthered my commitment to this age group and my desire to provide opportunity and promise for these kids. I loved the connections between the City schools and independent schools.”
Sue’s dedication to young people will live on forever at BCF, through the Suzanne F. Cohen Fund for Youth, a permanent endowment created by BCF to honor Sue upon her retirement from the board in 2007.
In Sue’s own words, “BCF was a perfect place for my philanthropic interest in youth and education to evolve. I developed into a strategic investor by working with BCF.”
We learned a lot from Sue, too, and will be forever grateful for all she did for BCF and for Baltimore.