Based in Heights, Yancey was beloved across Brooklyn as extraordinary executive, civic and cultural leader
YANCEY – Mary Anne, 1932-2013, of Brooklyn, NY, passed away unexpectedly October 25. Born in Walla Walla, Washington to a ranching family, she attended Cottey College, graduated from Whitman College, and moved to New York City in 1954. She married and raised a family in Brooklyn Heights, earned three Masters degrees, two from Columbia University’s School for Public Health and Urban Planning, and a third from Columbia’s Teachers College. She became a leader and sustaining force to many organizations. Her personal commitment to the causes she championed led many to rely on her support and counsel. Mary Anne was intelligent, kind, formidable, and fiercely dedicated to her adopted borough of Brooklyn.
Mary Anne joined the Junior League of Brooklyn in the early 1960s and became its President in 1968. The Yancey’s were an early founding family of Saint Ann’s School, where she was the President of the Parents Association, and which her children attended. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, and President of Mrs. Fields Literary Club. Mary Anne was the first woman Chair of the NYC Hospital Visiting Committee for the United Hospital Fund of New York, and was also the first woman President of the Plymouth Church Council. She was Chairperson of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center Council. In the late 1980’s, she served as Director of Marketing for the City’s largest home ownership program, at the Partnership for New York City.
A longtime board member of BRIC Arts/Media/Brooklyn, she served as Chair from 2002 to 2007 and founded the BRIC Rotunda Gallery Friends Committee. BRIC presents contemporary art, performing arts and community media programs that reflect Brooklyn’s creativity and diversity. As Chair, Mary Anne led the organization through a challenging period, helping to place it at the center of Brooklyn’s emerging cultural scene, and establishing BRIC House, a major new multi-media facility.
Lizanne Fontaine, a recent Chair of BRIC who worked closely with Mary Anne, said, “Mary Anne was smart, passionate about her community endeavors and extremely determined. She was truly brilliant at engaging people of different generations, with different interests, professional backgrounds, and skills sets to work collaboratively in a shared enterprise. She did this at BRIC in creating a Friends Group for the Rotunda Gallery, so that the organization’s contemporary art program could sink roots into the community, and in re-energizing and galvanizing the Board. Her determination has everything to do with the creation of BRIC House, our new home, a project which had languished on the back burner for years and years. She is and will be missed.”
Also dear to Mary Anne’s heart was the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy, a Grammy award-winning music school and arts producer, which is now in its 22nd season. Mary Anne was a board member for close to 15 years, and served as Chair from 2009-2013. Stepping in at a critical time, she oversaw its growth to 450 choristers, and firmly believed in its mission of uniting children of diverse backgrounds through music and helping them to develop into confident and expressive individuals. BYCA’s programs now include celebrated collaborations with cutting-edge artists, such as Mark Morris Dance Company, Nico Muhly, London Symphony Orchestra, Lou Reed and Elton John, with performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Metropolitan Opera, and around the world.
She is survived by her loving husband of 57 years, Richard, former Managing Director of the investment banking firm Dillon, Read & Co. Inc.; her brother Monte G. Shaffer of Prosser, Washington; her three children, Leslie of Whitefish, Montana, Jennifer Young (Brian) of Taos, New Mexico, and Richard Jr. (Inger) of Brooklyn, New York; as well as her five beloved grandsons, Gavin, Connor, Oliver, Felix and Neal. Mary Anne will be greatly missed by all. A memorial service, open to all, will be held the afternoon of November 15th at Plymouth Church (75 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights.) A prelude will begin at 4 p.m. and the service will begin at 4:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy’s Mary Anne Yancey Memorial Fund. (www.byca.org/support).
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