Sarah Lawrence Holland, activist, feminist, philanthropist, champion of Gay Rights and distance swimmer died quietly at home after a brief illness on March 31, 2019. A lifetime supporter of the arts, advocate for women, and champion of LGBT equality in the workplace, Sarah sought to level every uneven playing field. She touched many lives in many ways.
Born in January 1942 at Columbia Presbyterian Babies Hospital in New York City to Robert Chisholm Holland, million-dollar round-table underwriter for NY Life, and Pattee Lawrence Holland, of Crowley Louisiana, actress, social worker, and Southern belle, Sarah was fond of summing up her childhood in Chappaqua, NY and her colorful parents by saying, “My Dad aspired to keep up with the Joneses and my Mother thought we WERE the Joneses.” Sarah graduated Horace Greeley High class of 1960.
Sarah attended Hollins College (’64), a southern women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia. The highlight of her education was her Junior year abroad in Paris at the Sorbonne where her classes were in French and she earned a Diploma of Studies in French Civilization, with a “Très Bien” mention. She travelled widely in Europe and helped establish “Greek Summer” for the American Farm School (1970-73) in Thessaloniki.
After sojourn in St. Croix USVI (1978-1981) Sarah returned to New York City and for the next thirty-eight years availed herself of all that city life had to offer. Whether it was the theatre, opera, art openings or fund-raising events, her social calendar was always full. Her career trajectory included two of her passions: the arts and social justice, and led her to spend three decades in non-profit fundraising and management beginning at Lincoln Center where she was instrumental in the development, creation and production of the launch of Live from Lincoln Center; and later at Franklin Furnace, an avant-garde arts organization. Her dedication to social justice included raising funds for the Fresh Air Fund, Project Hope and God’s Love We Deliver. At Catalyst, as Vice-President of Corporate Relations, she helped create work places that “worked for women,” fighting gender bias and creating systems for corporations to do the same.
Sarah established the Visibility Project (1999), doing for the LGBTQ community what she had practiced and perfected at Catalyst. As founder and CEO she leveraged her elegant sophisticated demeanor and eloquent wit to redefine corporate culture to embrace diversity in the workplace. Her strategies and speaking engagements supported and allowed thousands of LGBT professionals to be “out” and successful in the workplace.
In her last decade Sarah used her vast experience to coach organizations and individuals on creating effective strategies to achieve work/life fulfillment.
Sarah married Lauree Feldman in 2011 after Marriage Equality was passed in NY State. Among the many activities they shared in their life together, an important one was distance swimming. Together they logged more than 500 miles in Lake Minnewaska, Mexico and the Caribbean. They took a trip around the world which included the top of the world, loved their dogs Ames and then Aly, gardened, split and stacked firewood, watched the stars through their bedroom skylight and annually during Pride Month returned to the LGBT Center Garden Party where they first met sixteen summers ago.
A tireless volunteer, Sarah was committed to recovery, political activism, nature conservation, animal rescue and education, as is reflected in her philanthropy. No cause or institution was more important to Sarah than her beloved alma mater, Hollins University. For the last two years she was President of the Alumnae Board. Under her guidance “alumnae to alumnae” engagement grew as did efforts to support enrollment and career assistance. As a member of the Board of Trustees, Sarah joined classmates in supporting a major capital project on campus.
This excerpt, from a letter issued by the President of Hollins University to the Hollins Board, apprising them of Sarah’s unexpected and heartbreaking illness, also includes a quote from Sarah:
“Sarah’s generosity in support of our new student residential village is also keeping her spirits high. As she recently wrote to us:
‘The thought of a presence in the 1964 Apartment Village House – the Sarah L. Holland ’64 Common Room for Uncommon Women! – fills me with joy, and I am grateful to leave this legacy gift to my beloved alma mater.’
Let us celebrate Sarah’s profound love of life and may her essence inspire us all to cherish every single day.”
In addition to Hollins, her volunteer Board service included the Association of Fundraising Professionals, NY Women’s Agenda, Mountain Hermitage (NM), Women in Development, Stonewall Community Foundation, NYC Anti-Violence Project and Zen Studies Society.
Despite her sophistication, there wasn’t a small town parade or county fair that didn’t tickle her fancy. No summer was complete without a demolition derby and a 4-H milkshake.
Sarah is survived by her spouse Lauree Feldman and siblings William Lawrence Holland, Max Caverly Holland and Bliss Caverly Holland. She is pre-deceased by her father, her mother, and her brother Robert Holland.
Sarah was fond of quoting “We aren’t here for a long time, we’re here for a good time!” In her ‘not long enough time’ among us, Sarah Lawrence Holland did as much, making the most of every day, having a good time, and reminding the rest of us to do the same. May that spirit and her essence be with us always.
A celebration of her life will be held on Monday April 8 at 4:30pm at First Presbyterian Church, 12 West 12 Street, NY, NY followed by a reception in the parlor. All welcome.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Copeland Funeral Home is honored to assist the family with the arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the family of Sarah by visiting www.copelandfhnp.comFor more information on placing an obituary, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.