Baltimore Sun's 2017 Business and Civic Hall of Fame honoree: Lainy LeBow-Sachs
Jun 08, 2017 at 1:00 PM
Right hand, protector and adviser to William Donald Schaefer in multiple offices has forged a dynamic second career with the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Lainy LeBow-Sachs remembers the moment her life changed. She saw a flyer for someone who was running to be the city's next mayor. Her children in school, the Massachusetts native was interested in getting a job, but her professional experience was limited to a two-year stint as a second-grade teacher in Philadelphia and serving as a volunteer docent at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She didn't know who this man named William Donald Schaefer was, but she was intrigued and volunteered for his campaign.
That was more than four decades ago. Since then, everyone who has ever had even the slightest contact with politics or nonprofits in Maryland knows who Lainy is. (And can you call someone so perpetually upbeat and friendly by anything but her first name?) She went from campaign volunteer to appointments secretary to the right hand, protector and close adviser to Mayor Schaefer and later Governor Schaefer, following him from City Hall to the State House. In his "do it now" administration, she had the skills to juggle multiple, often quite disparate assignments while working 80 hours a week and developing 10 Rolodexes worth of personal contacts from across the state and beyond.
"This is a savvy, well-educated woman who came out of her cocoon and unfolded," says Mark Wasserman, Mr. Schaefer's former chief of staff and now a vice president at the University of Maryland Medical System. "What was amazing was how many plates she learned to spin at once. She can give her all in multiple directions, and it almost always works out successfully."
And that's not even the most amazing part. After Mr. Schaefer left Annapolis in 1995, she was approached for all sorts of job opportunities (who wouldn't want the woman who knew every elected officeholder in the state?) but declined them all — until she was approached by Gary W. Goldstein, president and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute. His pitch? Could she run external relations — philanthropy, marketing, public relations and government relations — for the internationally recognized institute that studies and treats pediatric development disabilities?
The result was a second career as remarkably successful as the first. It turned out the woman who had lived for so long in the shadow of a political legend had a lot more to offer. Kennedy Krieger fundraising shot up, and its profile within the community did as well. "She's been phenomenally successful," says Dr. Goldstein who marvels at her energy and networking skills. "We are quiet, nerdy academics around here. She took us up a step by a factor of 10."
When Calvin G. Butler first arrived in Baltimore six years ago as an executive for Exelon, Lainy's office was one of his first stops. She told him whom he needed to meet and advised him on the "nuances of the city and state." Six months after his arrival, she had him on the board of Kennedy Krieger. "What first struck me was her ability to connect with people and issues and her ability to drill down into them and share with others," the Baltimore Gas and Electric CEO says. "She's a connector of people."
At 72, Lainy is still going strong, still making everyone she meets feel they must be her best friend. She is proud to be part of Kennedy Krieger and enjoys time with her grandchildren as well as her work with nonprofits (she's vice president of the Baltimore Jewish Council and serves on the boards of the BSO, Associated Federation of Jewish Charities, Beth Am Synagogue, where she's a lifetime member, and many others) and in Democratic politics. Her children are long since grown now, and her beloved husband, Leonard R. Sachs, passed away one year ago. Her busy schedule has proved to be a blessing — as is the chance to introduce her hundreds, if not thousands, of contacts to Kennedy Krieger's children, families and staff.
One more thing people should know about Lainy is that she remains staunchly loyal to the memory of Mayor (he always preferred that title over Governor) Schaefer, whom she helped look after until his death six years ago. "I worry that people have forgotten his legacy," says Lainy. "He was so passionate about Baltimore and wanting people's lives to be better." Yet it's hard to believe that the Schaefer name can be forgotten when his former appointments secretary carries on that tradition of helping people — and making Baltimore a better place — just as her boss would have wanted.
Born: April 20, 1945, Boston
Education: Newton South High School, 1963; B.A. Boston University, 1967; M.A. Loyola College Baltimore, 1979
Career: Aide and adviser to mayor and governor William Donald Schaefer, 1979-1996; executive vice president-external relations, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 1996-present
Civic involvement: Immediate past president, Baltimore Jewish Council Board of Directors; board member of the Associated Jewish Foundation, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Women's Initiative Network; former board member of the House of Ruth, Harriet's List, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Board; Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000; Baltimore Museum of Art; WYPR Advisory Board and United Way of Central Maryland