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University Trustee Sandy Parker remembered for her devotion to Rochester, education

June 7, 2021
Vertical portrait of Sandy Parker.

File photo.

University of Rochester Trustee Sandra (Sandy) Parker—community advocate, philanthropist, and admired business leader—passed away on June 6 at the age of 75.

She dedicated her professional life to revitalizing the economy of Greater Rochester and made extraordinary contributions that improved the community. She prominently served as president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance (now known as the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce) from 2005 until her retirement in 2014. Instrumental in establishing the RBA as the region’s “voice of business,” she was recognized in 2006 for her leadership in the Fair Share Coalition, which was formed to seek parity in state aid for Rochester. That initiative grew into the Rochester Community Coalition, which brings together business, labor, local government, education, faith organizations, and nonprofit organizations to seek state investment in projects to create long-term jobs and boost the regional economy.

Parker was a devoted board member and supporter of the University of Rochester for nearly a decade.

“Sandy’s death is a huge loss for the University of Rochester and the Greater Rochester community,” said University President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf. “She was a skillful unifier, a tireless advocate for this community, and a great friend.”

Rich Handler ’83, chairman of the University of Rochester Board of Trustees, added: “Unexpectedly losing Sandy is a shock to the entire Board of Trustees and Rochester community. She was passionate about Rochester and was someone who put both heart and leadership in the things she believed in to make both the community and the University ever better.”

Parker grew up in the community and loved Rochester. She generously gave of her time, serving on numerous boards in addition to the University’s Board of Trustees, including roles at Nazareth College; YMCA of Greater Rochester; the Center for Governmental Research; and the MCC Foundation Council. One of the inaugural recipients of the ICON Award by the Rochester Business Journal, she was also given a Key to the City of Rochester in 2006. In 2002, she received the prestigious ATHENA Award, given each year to a woman for outstanding contributions to business and community.

In 2017, she and her husband John “Dutch” Summers received the Salute to Excellence Award from the MCC Foundation for the couple’s commitment to the community and for inspiring local high school students to pursue higher education. Together, they became known for their leadership and incredible commitment to education, health care, and the Rochester community.

And in August 2020, Parker became chair of the University of Rochester’s School of Nursing National Council. She was also a leader at the University’s Warner School of Education as a former chairperson of the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) Advisory Council, which supports Warner’s efforts to strengthen the success of K–12 urban schools. With Summers, she supported student programs such as the Educational Partnership Organization between the University and East High School.

A generous supporter across the University, she made lead gifts to the Warner School, the Eastman School of Music, and the Medical Center, among other areas.

University flags will be lowered on June 29 to honor her memory.

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