Schoenbaum Mentored Generations of Philanthropists

Todays News


It’s not normally a shock to learn of the death of a 100-year-old, but for those close to Betty Schoenbaum, it seemed impossible that the philanthropist’s personal work would ever stop. “She was attending meetings, campus potlucks and agency events right up to the end. Truly remarkable,” says Kameron Hodgens, executive director of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center. “Towards the end of this past season, I was often worn out, but then I’d see Betty and think, if she can do it, so can I!”

In Sarasota, Schoenbaum would be most clearly remembered at the campus bearing her name. The Glasser/Schoenbaum campus houses 17 health and social services agencies assisting low-income and at-risk adults, children and families. Over more than 28 years, an estimated $10 million in operating expenses has been saved by the organizations, which pay just $8.50 per square foot annually to rent space there. Those organizations in turn have assisted more than 45,500 clients each year. The center was originally founded by the late Kay Glasser, and started with seed money from the Schoenbaum family in 1990.

Schoenbaum had been wife to Shoney’s founder Alex Schoenbaum, and her philanthropy was remembered in Charleston, SC, as well as in Sarasota. The Schoenbaums together funded early childhood development centers in South Carolina and funded scholarships at Ohio State University. Schoenbaum’s daughter Joann Miller told The Columbus Dispatch her mother loved giving and frequently said there were “no luggage racks on the hearse.” “She always said she had the most beautiful, privileged life, and she grew up in the most loving family,” Miller told the paper.

And even in her later years, she remained involved planning events and galas. Lastly she worked as part an intergenerational team on a benefit for the Glasser/Schoenbaum center. “What she did was act as a role model that all generations could look up to, that believe philanthropy is an important part of Sarasota,” says Gabriel Hament, the youngest member of that team. “It was demonstrative of the fact that if you stay engaged in your community, your age means very little.”

That type of human connection, Hodgens says, made Schoenbaum such a presence in the region. “Betty’s ability to connect with everyone—anyone—who had an opportunity to meet her was beyond admirable. She loved to know your story, what excites you, what motivates you, what makes you laugh,” Hodgens says. “she never stopped learning.”

Another staff member at the center said the philanthropist’s presence won’t be forgotten soon. “She was larger than life and yet remembered as so accessible and kind,” says Christina Russi, a staff member at Glasser/Schoenbaum. “She knew how best to use all her wonderful years as a platform to inspire and motivate. Her humor helped to embrace all in her mission. She will be missed but her lessons of caring and giving, of making every day count, will be remembered.”

Picture courtesy Glasser/Schoenbaum center: Betty Schoenbaum

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