It's with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Deborah Wadsworth. Deborah was formerly the President of Public Agenda and served as a Board Member and adviser until her death on December 24th.
Deborah is something of a Public Agenda icon and architect, having been with the organization since its early days. She served as Executive Director from 1986 to 1999 and President from 1999 until 2003. Her contributions to our work began even before she joined Public Agenda. As a program officer at the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation in the 1990s, Deborah introduced Public Agenda founder Daniel Yankelovich to Kettering Foundation President David Mathews. This introduction set in motion an institutional partnership that has endured for decades and bolstered our common mission of engaging citizens in addressing national and local challenges.
Deborah was a woman of astonishing warmth, intelligence, integrity and commitment. She touched the lives of many, stewarding the careers of a number of current and former Public Agenda team members. She will be dearly missed.
"Since Deborah hired me in 1994, I've benefited more than I can say from being in the orbit of her powerful intellect, warm heart, humor and fierce integrity," said Will Friedman, President. "She was a great mentor and friend, a leader with profound impacts on Public Agenda and someone to whom we will always be grateful."
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and fellow board member, Deborah Wadsworth. I know that Deborah made a long and valiant struggle against her illness, and I was actually much encouraged that her health had improved the last time that I saw her at a Public Agenda board meeting," said Mitchel Wallerstein, Chairman of our Board of Directors. "I will miss greatly her wisdom, her intelligence and her humor. Deborah played a vital role in building and sustaining Public Agenda, and her passing is indeed a loss for the entire organization. I offer my sincere condolences to her family and friends and to all who had the privilege of knowing her."
In addition to working with Public Agenda and at the Markle Foundation, Deborah was Executive Director of the Smart Family Foundation and Director of Admissions at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase. She served as a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education as well as chair of the board of trustees of Bennington College. She was a trustee and adviser for EDC since 1996. Wadsworth held degrees from Wellesley College and Columbia University.
We will announce details about a New York City memorial service for Deborah when they are available. In the meantime, we invite those of you who knew and worked with Deborah over the years to share your remembrances and condolences on our blog.