SHARON B. KING
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KING--Sharon B., a highly respected leader in philanthropy, died peacefully at home on October 21st, following a long battle with cancer. She was 68 years old. Prior to her work in philanthropy, Sharon held positions in the nonprofit, private, and government sectors, where she devoted her energy and talent to economic and social justice. She began her career as a grantmaker and evaluator for the City of New York, working in underserved communities. She returned to her hometown of Chicago, where she earned a law degree and a Masters Degree in Public Administration. Sharon was a founding Trustee of Horizon Hospice, one of the first such programs in the U.S. While working as an administrator at Cook County Hospital, she met and married Dr. Lambert King, and gave birth to their beloved daughter, Martha Whitney King. Returning to NYC, she continued to focus on public health-related issues, working as a senior policy advisor to then Borough President David Dinkins. Sharon began her career in private philanthropy as a program officer at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, served as president of the Edward B. Hazen Foundation, and worked as a philanthropic advisor in the Rockefeller Family Office. Sharon then led the F.B. Heron Foundation for nearly 20 years. As president at Heron, she advanced innovative practices, including mission-related investing, that gained wide influence in philanthropy. Throughout her life, she was inspired by listening to and maintaining strong connections with community leaders. Sharon was a Trustee of the Altman Foundation, the founding Board chair of Firelight Media, and a Board member of: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Council on Foundations, and Association of Black Foundation Executives. Sharon is survived by her daughter, Martha; her brothers, Wendell and Mark Burns; numerous nieces and nephews; and countless friends. We will miss her blend of wisdom, compassion, and joy. Her generous spirit will continue to inspire us.


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Published in New York Times on Oct. 26, 2014.
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31 entries
October 20, 2019
Sharon lives as a beacon of hope and justice in this dark time. I am glad she did not have to live through it up close, and grateful for her example of bravery and justice and love and struggle. I will take her memory as impetus to fight for decency, kindness and democracy all the harder.
Robert Friedman
Friend
February 17, 2015
Sharon King trusted a group of young American African leaders from rural North Carolina to build one of the only youth organizations led by and for African Americna young people in the South. She continued to fund our work and as a result we won many battles and grow many young leaders across the South. There were no other Sharon Kings' out there trusting black youth with thousands of dollars to do the social justice work...she was our pioneer and modern day Ella Baker. We will always remember her.
Angela Brown
December 13, 2014
Sharon had a mission. With TRP we carry her work on...David Perry (Chicago)
David Perry
December 9, 2014
Sharon was a rare gem - particularly among foundation executives. Seldom did she miss an opportunity to attend the Delta Blues Festival, where she was as much at home dancing and laughing with families in Mississippi's sun-drenched cotton fields, as she was in Heron's New York office. Her site visits were a gift. I learned so much from Sharon's thoughtful questions, and from our conversations about influencing systems to effect change. She took the long view, as a funder and a thinker. Her leadership in the area of mission investing is a testament to Sharon's wisdom and courage. The lives of countless social change organizations, nonprofit leaders and residents in distressed communities were markedly improved because of Sharon King.
Bill Bynum
November 27, 2014
Sharon King was one of the greatest-souled human beings in our midst, full of passion for those with unfilled needs and full of determination and practical ideas about how to ease or fill their needs. She was a gentle soul with a soft but firm voice, an ever-present smile, and a hearty laugh. When I think about her death at so young an age, I simply want to cry.
Joel Fleishman
November 24, 2014
I met Sharon when I was a Chicago Community Trust Fellow placed at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation for the summer. In addition to advising me about nuances of national philanthropy, knowing my Chicago roots Sharon went out of her way to make me feel at home in the Big Apple. Although ours was a brief encounter, at the time her kind advice and counsel was an invaluable asset to me. She will be remembered as a gracious and wonderful leader.
Aurie Pennick
November 8, 2014
Sharon was a beacon, builder, example and incredibly thoughtful and generous spirit. Her spirit carries on. Condolences to Martha and Sharon's family, along with deep gratitude for sharing her with us.
Lisa Richter
November 6, 2014
John Taylor
I will remember Sharon as one of the kindest most joyful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. The world would be such a beautiful place if we all used her character as the ideal of how we all should be, if we aspired to bring the kind of laughter, integrity and care that she brought to all of us. Even now, just a mere thought about Sharon brings a smile to my face and reaffirms my belief in the goodness of all people. Sharon simply mastered the art of allowing you to see that inner beauty and that love for mankind she so generously distributed. Like all those who were fortunate to become her friend, I will miss her, but none of us shall ever, ever forget her.
John Taylor
November 4, 2014
The Edward Hazen Foundation was privileged to be led by Sharon King from 1988 to 1991. Her vision for supporting organizations with “their feet in the community” (her phrase) led the foundation to the work we do today. It was a unique perspective at the time and has guided us ever since. Sharon was so wonderfully generous to me with her time, taking a moment to offer me words of support and encouragement over the years that I knew her. I will miss her, as will we all.
Lori Bezahler
November 4, 2014
I did not have the pleasure of meeting Ms. King, but as an African-American president of a foundation, I stand on her shoulders every day.

Karen McNeil-Miller
Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
November 2, 2014
My condolences to Martha and family and friends of Sharon. I had the privilege of knowing her when she was at Heron and after and greatly appreciated her wisdom and leadership and support of my work at the Shriver Center and at Woodstock Institute. She helped to make the world a better place. We lost her too soon.
Dory Rand
November 2, 2014
Sharon King's warm personality, deep humanity, and wise philanthropy affected the lives of millions of people. As President of the FB Heron Foundation, she was a major reason for the success of our work in asset building at the Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis. FB Heron was not our largest funder, but our smartest and steadiest. To take only one example, FB Heron resources contributed in meaningful ways to the creation of progressive accounts for children beginning at birth. As I write this, there are tens of thousands of babies in Maine, Nevada, Oklahoma, and other states who have college savings plans, supported by public and private resources, because Sharon helped make this possible. Sharon would inevitably divert such praise with warm humor, giving credit to others. Today we can place it where it belongs.
Michael Sherraden
November 2, 2014
It has been too long since I last saw Sharon in person, and I guess it will be a while before I see her again, but I can see and feel her now with the same vibrance, humor, wisdom, warmth and values as when I first met her 25 years ago. She epitomized the best in philanthropy -- love of humankind (and beyond) -- in who she was and all that she did. I, of course, loved that she aligned Heron with asset-building, which was strategic and brave and field-changing, and affirmed and furthered the promise of all people. I will be forever grateful for the embrace of general support grants, which show respect for the creativity and independence of non-profits. I will forever be grateful too for the incredible team she assembled at Heron, for her constant quest to apply all the resources of the foundation to highest value. Most of all, I am grateful for her friendship and joy, her affirmation and inspiration. She is as alive for me today as when we first met. Perhaps I am freer now to communicate with her without travelling to NYC.
Bob Friedman
November 2, 2014
Sharon was an inspiration to all who met her and especially to those who had the joy of working with her - a wonderful person whose spirit, smarts, and commitment motivated everyone around her. I've never met anyone with more integrity. My sincere condolences to her family.
John Weiler
November 2, 2014
I met Sharon when she was at Heron and I ran the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia. She was a person of remarkable integrity, intelligence, and kindness. She was a bit rare in philanthropy, in that she understood the power of listening, of collegiality, and patience. She never thought that those attributes diminished effectiveness or seriousness. She was a great friend and I will always remember her and keep her in my prayers.
Jeremy Nowak
November 2, 2014
Sharon was so open -- such a good listener and advisor. She invested in our empowerment work with "invisible people" (homeowners in manufactured housing parks)while we were being dismissed by almost everyone. The tens of thousands of people strongly self-sufficient now are just a sliver of her legacy. Condolences to her family and to all of us who will miss her.
Juliana Eades
November 2, 2014
I always thought of Sharon as a guardian within the walls of philanthropy, watching over those of us out in the nonprofit fields. She had a "true north" sense of justice that several times over the past 20 years gave protection to me and my organization. I am honored to have known Sharon, and will always feel graced by her guidance.
Steven Dawson
November 1, 2014
Sharon King had the vision, values, and determination to work with her good friend Ada Addington to make Horizon Hospice in Chicago the first hospice between Connecticut and California. Her wit got us through the stressful and frightening times and her wisdom enabled us to build a nonprofit hospice that became the model for thousands of others. She showed us how to listen, learn, and laugh - and never give up. The last time I saw Sharon was at the dedication of the special inpatient unit for Horizon Hospice patients at Rush Hospital, where she was beaming with pride at the achievement of a 35 year dream. My prayers to out to her family and friends.
Joan Flanagan
October 31, 2014
Sharon was an inspiration and a joy. Her leadership drew on her ability to inspire. We so admired the contributions she made to making life better, particularly for vulnerable populations. But it was her hearty laugh, love of her family and friends, her remarkable willingness to be there for the family of her friends, and joy that we will always remember. Thank you always for being so dear a friend to MJ.
Patricia Mullan
Patricia Mullan
October 30, 2014
I first met Sharon years ago at an NFG event in Texas - it was a lunch, and she had her purse on the table. I thought - oh how nice, someone from New York. Since that time she has served as a role model for me and I am sure countless others in philanthropy, and i can't count the number of times I thought, "what would Sharon do". I know that her loss will be deeply felt, and i hope that remembrances may help to ease some of the pain. Sne was a magnificent woman.
Regina McGraw
October 30, 2014
The first time I met Sharon, she told me: "there are no emergencies in philanthropy, we have both the privilege and the obligation to be thoughtful and strategic before acting." This was the best advice I ever received and I lived by those words for 14 years in the foundation world. She was razor-sharp, and no-nonsense in her work but warm-hearted, humorous, and delightful in all aspects of her life--a fabulous friend and role model. Hers was a life to celebrate.
Mac McCarthy
October 30, 2014
Sharon had that rare combination of fierce intellect, humility and grace. She was a dear colleague who taught me so much through her example. Sending wishes for peace to her daughter and many friends.
Sandra Mikush
October 29, 2014
Generous, a great love of laughter and a sage. We are all enriched to have known such a spirited, compaasionate leader and visionary. Rest unto thee Rev Mother King.
October 29, 2014
Such a great loss. Sharon had such spirit, passion and wisdom. My condolences to her family--she was a beautiful and inspiring leader.
Tamara Draut
October 29, 2014
Such a great loss. Early in the days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Sharon was one of the few people who understood the risk to youth. That ahead of the curve insight was a hallmark of her work. She was smart, compassionate, and no-nonsense. Sharon - and her impact on social justice - will be sorely missed.
Frances Kunreuther
October 28, 2014

The words 'genius' and 'brilliant' -- so often overused -- both apply to Sharon. She was a genius in the art of building relationships. And she had a brilliant spirit. All of us in the Industrial Areas Foundation network mourn her loss and send our fondest wishes to her daughter and friends.
Mike Gecan
October 28, 2014
Sharon was truly one in a million. She leaves a profound legacy and truly delightful memories for so many of us. My heartfelt condolences to Martha and family.
Luther Ragin Jr
October 27, 2014
Sharon's passing is an immeasurable loss to organized philanthropy. In a time when it was not common to see an African American woman as the head of a foundation, Sharon broke ground as the president of several national foundations. She brought great intelligence, passion and caring to each aspect of her work. We who were privileged to know her loved her deeply. Her legacy will be with us always.
Michael Seltzer
October 27, 2014
I will always remember Sharon laughing and leading with tremendous grace and realness. Heartfelt condolences to all those who loved her.
Monona Yin
October 26, 2014
Hoping to continue in the spirit and substance of this wonderful woman's extraordinary legacy. She is revered and missed
Clara Miller
October 26, 2014
SK--The world is not the same without you.

BG
Barbara Gomez
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