If you asked Susan Tamny Jones what she did professionally, she’d likely say, “fundraiser.” That’s what she did. But her passion for the institutions she helped support and her skill at convincing donors to open their wallets elevated fundraising to an art form.
Call it grace. A warm approach. Whatever Jones did, it worked.
“Her career as a transformational fundraiser left an indelible mark on the University of Miami and its community,” the school said in its obituary for Jones, UM’s associate vice president in the Division of University Advancement. Jones died at her Coral Gables home after a long battle with cancer on Christmas Day. She was 72.
Jones, who served the UM community for more than 20 years, was instrumental in the success of UM’s two major capital campaigns — Momentum 1, which began in 2003, and Momentum 2, in 2012. The two campaigns raised more than $3 billion and helped transform the university’s research centers and classrooms, added student scholarships and awards, and attracted top faculty. Momentum 1 amassed $1.4 billion in donations at a time when no Florida school had topped the billion-dollar mark.
Donna Shalala was UM’s president during the two capital campaigns. In the school’s tribute on Tuesday, she called Jones, “a critical leader in building the U into a first-tier university. I treasured her guidance and friendship over the years.”
She loved bringing people together for a common cause, and the university is stronger and more responsive for it.
Julio Frenk, University of Miami president.
Julio Frenk, UM’s current president, said: “Susan’s ever-present personal touch was the touchstone by which many University of Miami donors became lifelong Hurricanes. She loved bringing people together for a common cause, and the university is stronger and more responsive for it.”
Jones’ leadership at UM was recognized through her induction into the Iron Arrow Society, the highest honor given by the university.
“She was always so warm and welcoming; I can’t imagine a better representative of UM,” said David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida and retired Miami Herald publisher.
Jones also served on the boards of the Ransom Everglades School, Beaux Arts, Riviera Country Club and the Junior League of Miami.
In 2006, Jones received the Sarah Hopkins Woodruff Award at the American Red Cross’ Spectrum Awards for Women. In 1998, she was honored by the American Red Cross, along with co-chair Mary Jean Risi, for helping the organization raise $213,000 that year at its annual ball. For years, Jones and her husband, real estate executive Edgar Jones, supported the Red Cross by chairing events.
“Susan was beloved by all who had the honor to work with her,” said UM Board of Trustees member Barbara Hecht Havenick in the school’s tribute. “The behind-the-scenes impact Susan had on so many lives is impossible to measure. She was one of a kind.”
Jones was born June 26, 1945, in Annapolis, Maryland, to U.S. Navy Cmdr. Lewis D. Tamny and Ann Tamny. As the daughter of a career military family, Jones grew up in numerous posts in Florida — Pensacola, Opa-locka and Sanford — as well as Texas, New Jersey and Rhode Island. She graduated from the University of Florida.
In addition to her husband, Jones’ survivors include her sons Patterson and Cooper; grandchildren Olivia and Ava; and siblings Michael, Pete and Laiky Tamny.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 1121 Andalusia Ave., Coral Gables. The family asks that contributions in Jones’ memory go to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.