Celebrating the life of Betty Strasenburgh, longtime Rochester philanthropist and activist, distinguished citizen, and devoted membe...

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Senate Resolution No. 722

BY: Senator COONEY

CELEBRATING the life of Betty Strasenburgh,
longtime Rochester philanthropist and activist,
distinguished citizen, and devoted member of her

WHEREAS, It is with profound sorrow that this Legislative Body,
representing the people of the State of New York, is moved this day to
pay tribute to an eminent woman of indomitable dedication whose public
service and countless accomplishments will forever stand as a paradigm
and inspiration for others; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh of Rochester, New York, has died at the
age of 90; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh was a philanthropist, harpist, sailor,
pilot, adventurer, but most of all, she was a community advocate who,
among other efforts, helped lead a campaign to renovate the Eastman
Theatre; and

WHEREAS, Born in New York City, where she attended high school,
Betty Strasenburgh played the harp and was accepted to the Eastman
School of Music, which brought her to Rochester; and

WHEREAS, She taught harp at Nazareth Academy after she graduated
from Eastman in 1952, and she remained close to the Eastman School
throughout her life, later moving to Grove Street where she could see
the theater from her dining room window; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh and her late husband, Robert, president
of Strasenburgh Laboratories and son of the local Strasenburgh
Planetarium donors, made their home in Pittsford, New York; and

WHEREAS, She played an active role on the boards of East End-based
cultural groups such as the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Garth
Fagan Dance; and

WHEREAS, A strong supporter of the arts in Rochester, Betty
Strasenburgh moved to the East End in 1997, and was actively involved
with the renovation of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, a project that
included a new building for teaching, rehearsal, and performing spaces;

WHEREAS, It was her neighbor and friend on Grove Street, architect
Bob Macon, who got her involved in the renovations; he was ill from
cancer and his wife entrusted the plans for renovation with Betty to
complete his vision; she also helped raise the money to make Macon's
vision of hanging a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the new atrium a
reality; and

WHEREAS, On the WXXI program Norm & Company in 2017, Betty recalls
the effort to bring the Eastman Theatre project forward was not an easy
process; it took approximately 10 years because there were all sorts of
ideas of how the cultural center should be and how the performing arts

center should be; there were so many different people that had their own
ideas; and

WHEREAS, In addition to her involvement in the arts, Betty
Strasenburgh was dedicated to helping advance women's leadership
opportunities in Rochester; she realized that having control over her
finances gave her more choices in life; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh was employed with the investment firm of
Howe & Rustling to bring in prospective clients; she began to understand
how few women handled money and understood finances, so she became a
founding member of the Women's Fund and Rochester Women's Network; and

WHEREAS, She also realized few women served on corporate boards, and
during her appearance on Norm & Company, she described how she joined
Catherine Carlson on a visit to the CEO of Bausch & Lomb to push for
representation on the company's board; after explaining to him what she
was doing, the CEO put a woman on the board; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh's life was not all work, it involved a
lot of fun and adventuring as well; she got into sailing as an activity
she and her first husband could do together; she crewed for a local
accomplished female sailor, Helen Ingerson, who won the top prize for
women's sailing when Betty was on her crew in the 1960s; and

WHEREAS, When Betty married Robert Strasenburgh, it began a 25-year
adventure of cruising around the world; she visited all seven
continents, including a trip to Antarctica; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh also became a licensed pilot, learning
to fly on a four-seat Beechcraft Deonair plane; her adventures included
a crash with her flight instructor on board; they clipped treetops and
flipped into a farm field in Sparta, Livingston County, but they were
able to walk away from the accident; she also survived a boat fire on
the Hudson River, as well as breast cancer; and

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh was deeply devoted to supporting the
arts, including the Gateways Music Festival, which encourages African
American musicians to perform classical music; the festival is now
affiliated with the Eastman School of Music; and

WHEREAS, Over the years, Betty Strasenburgh had a lifelong devotion
to issues related to racial justice, and issues related to diversity;

WHEREAS, In 2019, she was honored by WXXI with the President's
Award, which honors an individual who exemplifies the spirit of
collaboration toward the WXXI mission, makes a contribution to WXXI
programming, and demonstrates exceptional commitment, creativity, and
leadership; Betty Strasenburgh was one such individual; and

WHEREAS, She has been a strong advocate for public media in
Rochester and its mission to serve the community; because of her
long-time generous support, WXXI announced at that event that it would
name the radio wing of the WXXI building "The Betty Strasenburgh
Studios"; and

WHEREAS, A true gem in Rochester, Betty Strasenburgh was always
willing to lend a hand to help lift up her community and its residents;

WHEREAS, Betty Strasenburgh, who displayed many unique qualities,
lived an immensely beautiful life built on compassion, kindness, and
respect for others; she will be truly missed by all those who had the
privilege and honor of knowing her, especially her longtime partner,
Gene Van Voorhis; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to
celebrate the life of Betty Strasenburgh, and to express its deepest
condolences to her family; and be it further

RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be
transmitted to the family of Betty Strasenburgh.


  • 30 / Apr / 2021
  • 04 / May / 2021
  • 04 / May / 2021

Resolution Details

Law Section:
Resolutions, Legislative


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