Kathleen Dragovich, fund raiser and Columbia activist, dies

Kathleen Francis Ward Dragovich, a fundraiser for local charities who was a former Columbia Council member, died of cancer Nov. 28 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia.

She was 55 and lived in Dorsey’s Search.

“As a Columbia neighborhood representative, Kathleen was a model of how to conduct yourself in the midst of controversial work,” said Elizabeth Bobo, a former Howard County county executive who also served in the General Assembly.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Bolton Hill, she was the daughter of Thomas H. Ward, an attorney and later Baltimore City Circuit Court judge, and Joyce Ann MacCartney, a property manager.

She attended Mount Royal Elementary School and the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. She was a 1980 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Richmond and was elected senior class president. She belonged to the university Outing Club and enjoyed whitewater rafting.

While in college, she worked on her father’s successful 1982 campaign for a Baltimore City Circuit Court judgeship.

“Kathleen handed out literature outside grocery stores and shopping malls. She put in time at the Kmarts and worked the polls on Election Day,” said her brother, Patrick T. Ward. “She was good with public speaking and communicating with others.”

After completing her schooling, she became a Baltimore Museum of Art intern and went on to become its public information coordinator. She coordinated the museum staff’s annual participation in a Thanksgiving parade and promoted exhibitions of the Bauhaus Movement and on Dr. Seuss.

She then joined the Maryland Science Center as its public relations manager.

“Kathleen displayed a flair,” said her sister, Tracy Ward of Royal Oak. “For a dinosaur exhibit, she once had a stegosaurus placed on the back of a flatbed track and had it driven around the Beltway during rush hour. Traffic reporters reported that there was a dinosaur spotted on I-695. She promoted the IMAX presentation of a Rolling Stones concert film by having large artificial stones tumbled down the hill outside the Science Center.”

Ms. Dragovich went on to become the development director for a family resource organization, Friends of the Family, for which she wrote grants and developed events, including an annual thank-you trip to Annapolis for all of the mothers and babies in the program.

She was subsequently vice president for development for the YMCA of Central Maryland and ran a successful capital campaign to build a new facility at Ellerslie Avenue and 33rd Street at Stadium Place.

Following the birth of her son, Ms. Dragovich became a fundraising consultant for the Better Business Bureau, Urbanite magazine and the Franciscan Center, among other clients. She helped raise $9.2 million for the Parks & People Foundation’s capital campaign to restore the Druid Hill Park superintendent’s house as the nonprofit’s headquarters.

“She was a key part of our campaign [toward] a really daunting goal,” said Jackie Carrera, a former Parks and People president. “She provided wise counsel, sound judgment and practical ideas, all with good humor. She was never stressed. Her cool, common sense personality inspired everyone who knew her.”

She also helped the Baltimore Medical System raise $9 million for its Highlandtown Healthy Living Center, and obtained grants to buy art pieces that reflected the multiculturalism of the center’s patients. She was later named the center’s patient services coordinator.

In 2010, she ran and was elected to the Columbia Council, representing the Dorsey’s Search community with the Columbia Association.

She tackled the council’s stance on growth plans and Columbia’s future. Friends said she sought to make the organization more transparent in its decision-making.

“She was tall and stately and was like a cool breeze. She exuded peace,” said Ms. Bobo. “She embodied the the values of social, economic and environmental justice relating to the future growth in downtown Columbia.”

Ms. Dragovich was a subscriber to Center Stage. She read widely, including works by Jane Austen, Alice Hoffman and Willa Cather. She enjoyed attending Neil Young and Sarah McLachlan concerts. She was a fan of Carole King’s music. She also enjoyed her time at her family’s Cheat River farm in West Virginia.

She was a past board president of the Preservation Society of Fells Point and Federal Hill.

A memorial gathering and reception will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Vollmer Center at Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave.

In addition to her sister and brother, survivors include her husband of 16 years, William A. Dragovich, who sells real estate; a son, Thomas Eli Dragovich of Columbia; another sister, Megan Ward Carlson of Boring; two nephews; and a niece.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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