Marion Hawks 

Marion Hawks likely would have spent this past Saturday at home, listening to the Metropolitan Opera on National Public Radio. And at night, she surely would have gone to the Eastman Theatre to see Garth Fagan Dance --- one of her life's great treasures --- perform in a sold-out Griot New York.

            Hawks --- one of Rochester's finest, and most adored, cultural ambassadors --- died a few days before the show, on Thursday, September 4, at the age of 85. And though she missed this local performance of Griot, she was there in spirit: Garth Fagan dedicated the evening to her memory.

            After growing up in New York City, Marion Hawks settled with her husband, Thomas, in Brighton, where the couple raised three children. It was during this time that she established herself in the Rochester arts community as a gracious and quiet philanthropist.

            She formed a deep appreciation for many of Rochester's cultural institutions --- Garth Fagan Dance, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Memorial Art Gallery --- while simultaneously endearing herself to the people within each organization.

            "She was an exceptional human being," says MAG Director Grant Holcomb. "It's fair to say that anyone who ever met her, who ever spent any time with her, was just enhanced by being in her presence. She was one of the most gracious people you'd ever meet. She was one of the most generous people you'd ever meet. She was one of the most humble people you'd ever meet. She was extraordinary. And she touched my life."

            And her philanthropy rubbed off on her children who, to celebrate one of their parents' wedding anniversaries several years ago, presented Thomas and Marion with a unique gift: the establishment of the Thomas H. and Marion J. Hawks Memorial Fund at the Memorial Art Gallery. Money from the fund is used by the gallery for acquisitions and educational outreach.

            But Hawks didn't limit her appreciation to Rochester's arts groups. After sending their kids off to college, Thomas and Marion moved from the suburbs into the city. And Marion developed a deep love for the city of Rochester.

            Most recently, she was heartened by the growth of downtown's housing market. And, as daughter Cinda Johnson says of her parents, "They would have been right in the heart of it all if they could have."

            Sarah Lentini, executive director of the Rochester Arts & Cultural Council, calls Marion Hawks "a person from a bygone era."

            "I met her when I started at the Arts Council," Lentini says. "She'd been one of the major supporters of the arts in Rochester. And my task when I first arrived was to sit down with key people in the arts community. She was one of them. She was really a very generous but modest, unassuming, gracious lady --- a quiet philanthropist. She often gave anonymously. She wasn't looking for a lot of fanfare around her giving. I wouldn't be surprised if you called every major arts institution in town and found they all had some experience with Marion."

            And it was in a similar spirit that Hawks lived privately. Asked which of their mother's characteristics they will remember most fondly, daughters Sandra and Cinda respond: "Her graciousness and her humility."

            "She never complained," says Cinda. "She never said an unkind word. She was just totally nonjudgmental. A diplomat personified. She could find something nice to say about anything. During this past week, when we all knew her life was coming to an end, we had so many people calling up and saying she was their best friend. She touched a lot of people's hearts."

            It's fitting, then, that a woman who deeply loved Rochester and its cultural treasures became a cultural treasure herself.

            In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Thomas H. and Marion J. Hawks Memorial Fund at the Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Avenue, Rochester, New York, 14607.

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