Sandy Parker, the former Rochester Business Alliance president and behind-the-scenes force in local business and economic development circles, died Saturday at age 75.
Parker in 2002 was president of the Industrial Management Council, one of two major business roundtable organizations in the area along with the Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce. Sensing a need for a unified voice in the business community, she spearheaded a merger and served as president of the new organization until 2014.
“Sandy was remarkably strategic and collaborative, and it was a very effective combination for our community,” Rochester Area Community Foundation President Jennifer Leonard said. “She juggled the many different parts of the business community highly effectively without needing to be out front.”
The cause of death was cancer that progressed very quickly. Parker’s death was first reported by WXXI News.
She grew up in Webster, the daughter of a Bausch + Lomb vice president, before studying and later working at Rochester Institute of Technology. In 1980 she joined the Industrial Management Council, one of two long-standing business organizations in the area.
The discussions regarding the merger unfolded slowly. “That was the first time in 70 or 80 years the two organizations had really worked together without looking for an advantage,” Tom Mooney, her counterpart at the Chamber of Commerce, said in 2003.
The Rochester Business Alliance later was renamed the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. It is headed today by Bob Duffy, the former mayor and lieutenant governor.
Parker was criticized twice toward the end of her tenure for apparent favor-trading with Duffy. In 2013, when he was lieutenant governor, she sold him her house on Keuka Lake in an unlisted market-value transaction. She then delayed her retirement until he could finish his four-year elected term and replace her.
Duffy released a statement Sunday calling Parker “an unsung hero in the Greater Rochester community for decades. … Her loss is immeasurable as were her contributions to the community she loved.”
Parker was involved in many local educational and philanthropic organizations. She sat on the boards of the George Eastman Museum, Lollypop Farm, RIT, United Way of Greater Rochester, and the Rochester Area Community Foundation, among others.
Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement Sunday: “Sandy Parker was a warrior and champion for employers in Greater Rochester, helping lead the region through challenging times. She was ever vigilant in ensuring that Rochester’s business community was heard by local leaders and that they responded to the needs of our local economy.”
Education reform in particular captured her interest. She and her husband, developer Dutch Summers, were both involved in the Rump Group, a caucus of business leaders seeking business-oriented solutions for the Rochester City School District in the 1990s.
“She was, along with Dutch, one of this community’s greatest philanthropists – and not just present-day,” said Mark Siwiec, a long-time friend. “Her death is tragic and will have ramifications of which this community will never be aware.”
“She just had a real commitment to the promise of Rochester’s young folks,” said Adrian Hale, strategic initiatives director at the Chamber. “She wanted to see us thrive.”
No funeral plans have been announced. Ms. Parker had a son from an earlier marriage.
Contact staff writer Justin Murphy at [email protected].