Sarah M. Ferguson Fund

The Sarah M. Ferguson Fund continues the legacy of a vibrant woman committed to the environment and education.

Sarah M. Ferguson, circa 1952.

Sarah ("Sally") Morewood Ferguson, who established a donor advised fund in 1999, remained anonymous until her death on February 8, 2011 at her home in New Haven. As expressed in the fund agreement, her fund then became The Sarah M. Ferguson Fund, a permanent endowment dedicated to education, the environment and historic preservation. Although a world traveler and native New Yorker, Sally lived in New Haven for nearly 30 years.

Throughout her life, Sally Ferguson took an active interest in community affairs. She had been president of the Junior League of Schenectady, president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and was a past president of the Board of Managers of the Woman's Seamen's Friend Society of Connecticut, which now provides scholarships to Connecticut students who attend Maritime academies or major in Marine-related topics.

"Sally was a wonderful, wonderful person," recalls friend and neighbor Carl Gottschalk. "She had a keen sense of humor and loved to take politicians to task and comment on what was happening in the day's news." Carl and his wife Maggie became acquainted with Sally through their love of dogs. Sally had a series of Spaniels.

Recalling a story Sally once told him, Carl remembers how thoughtful and very careful Sally was with her money. "I told her I was putting up a fence and she said, 'I have a story to tell you,' and proceeded to tell me about the time she put up a fence at her home on Fishers Island to keep the rabbits from destroying her garden. In her usual wry way, she explained that she couldn't justify the price for the gate of the fence, so she satisfied herself with climbing over the top using a step ladder instead."

Sally had a real love for life and was very active even as a young girl. There's a family story of a young Sally doing endless cartwheels in the living room of the family house. Another of her playing softball at Vassar, where she graduated in 1941 with a major in Child Study.

After school, Sally worked as a Nursery School teacher for two years at the Brown School in Schenectady, New York. Between 1942-1957, she volunteered as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, and served on the Boards of the Schenectady Junior League, Cerebral Palsy School and Schenectady Day Nursery. She was also treasurer of the Vassar College Class of 1941 and the Northeastern New York State Vassar Club, as well as a member of the Schenectady Community Chest Budget Committee.

From 1944 - 1946, Sally served in the U.S. Naval Reserve in Norfolk, VA as a Communications Officer drafting and releasing messages and performing code work during WWII. After the war, she served as the official hostess for her brother, C. Vaughan Ferguson Jr., who was the U.S. Consul General in Tangier in the 1950s and the U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

"She had a very good memory and could tell great stories about the past," recalls Pierce Rafferty, Director of the Henry L. Ferguson Museum on Fishers Island, New York where Sally spent her summers. The Museum was established in the 1960s for the collection, preservation and exhibition of items of Fishers Island and, through its Land Trust, the preservation in perpetuity of undeveloped property in its natural state. The Museum is named for one of Sally's father's relatives, a son of one of the Fergusons who owned the Island in the late 1800s. In 2007, Sally and family members donated a parcel of land to the Museum's Land Trust; she served on the Museum's Board until her death.

"Aunt Sally liked being outdoors," recalls Richey Woodzell, Sally's niece. "She loved to sit at our family's house on Fisher's Island and watch the birds and the tides coming and going. She also loved to swim and play golf."

During her life through her Fund at The Community Foundation, the quiet and "very self-disciplined" Sally distributed more than $150,000 in grants to the following nonprofits: All Our Kin, Amistad Academy, Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic, Eli Whitney Museum, Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven, LEAP, Music Haven Inc., National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Neighborhood Music School, Patrons of the New Haven Free Public Library, New Haven Museum and Historical Society, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Prevent Blindness Tri-State, Read to Grow, Schooner Inc. and Solar Youth.

A grant from Sally's Fund to the Trust for Public Land in 2010 supported the purchase and conservation of the 42-acre Griswold Airport land in Madison. Portions of the land will now be protected as open space while other portions will be developed as playing fields for children and families.

"About 19-20 acres of the most sensitive property along the Coast and Hammonasset River will be in conservation easement, which means no development can take place, and the existing buildings are already being taken down," says Kaitlin Fisher, Administrative and Philanthropy Assistant for the Trust for Public Land.

A grant to the New Haven Museum supported the restoration of important paintings and that organization's day to day operations, bringing over 350 years of New Haven's rich history to life through galleries, programs, lectures, publications and library.

The Sally M. Ferguson Fund will continue distributing grants annually to the causes that mattered most to Sally. To stay involved in your charitable giving during life and create a philanthropic legacy that endures for generations, set up a donor advised fund.

Or, if you prefer to talk to someone in person about fund options, please email Sharon Cappetta or call her 203-777-7071.

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Sarah M. Ferguson Fund