Q & A with Community Activist Sally Michel

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Sally Michel believed in Baltimore long before such behavior was mandated by municipal bumper sticker. As one of the city’s pre-eminent cultural and educational activists, Michel has consistently channeled that belief into tangible results for a smorgasbord of worthy beneficiaries – the Abell Foundation, Fund for Educational Excellence, School for the Arts, Junior League, and Walters Art Museum, among countless others – that have significantly enhanced the quality of life in Baltimore. 

Michel also has played a quietly influential role in civic affairs, both publicly – she served for 10 years on the city’s Planning Commission, including a stretch as chair – and privately, as a staunch donor to the campaigns of local, state, and national Democratic candidates (William Donald Schaefer, Ben Cardin, Elijah Cummings, Maggie McIntosh, Barack Obama, et al.).

However, Michel is probably best known as the co-founder – and relentless shepherdess — of the Parks & People Foundation, the public/private organization, launched in 1984 with Schaefer’s benediction, dedicated to developing programs that seamlessly mesh environmental and educational initiatives. Accordingly, she created the group’s SuperKids Camp, which since 1997 has provided more than 17,000 city schoolchildren with innovative learning experiences via a fun-but-functional summer camp.

Michel, now 73, grew up in Virginia, attended Goucher College, and lives in Roland Park.    

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.  

Help us to remember that what we keep we lose, and only what we give remains our own.
 
When did you define your most important goals, and what are they? 

Goals are an ongoing process, but mine have always focused on children and the city environment. 
 
What is the best advice you ever got that you followed? 

My husband use to give my three daughters the following advice: be a lady, do things to make me proud, and, above all, think. We have all followed that advice. 
 
The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

Vote Republican. I never have.
 
What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime? 

Friends and family are the key to everything. Eight grandkids are sheer joy. There are not enough hours in the day.    
 
What is the best moment of the day?

Two a.m. It’s quiet, the phone doesn’t ring, and I can get a lot of work done.
 
What is on your bedside table? 

Three alarm clocks.
 
What is your favorite local charity? 

The Parks & People Foundation, because it helps city children and parks.
 
What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing? 

Marry someone who will support you in all your ventures.
 
Why are you successful? 

Teamwork.
 
What is your favorite Baltimore City vista? 

The view from my porch. I can see the Roland Park water tower and all the way down to the harbor.
 
What is the most difficult plant that you have successfully grown in your home garden? 

Does not apply – I have never grown a plant successfully. 
 
What attribute surprised you the most about William Donald Schaefer?

Despite his gruff exterior, he was a lovely, sweet man.



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