November 13, 2018
Stephen S. Roberts and Dr. Sue Goetz Ross, pictured in 1993
Stephen Roberts, a donor advisor for the Sue Goetz Ross and Stephen S. Roberts Music Fund, recently made a legacy gift to help launch the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts. We asked him to share some thoughts on how this new fund helps honor his wife's legacy.
Why did you choose to help the Community Foundation establish the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts?
I am honored to be able to assist in the launch of the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. The arts (in our case singing classical music) brought me and my late wife Dr. Sue Goetz Ross together and then gave us many years of pleasure and enrichment together. The arts are an essential part of the life of any community, bringing it both beauty and identity and giving it its human spirit. Although the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has not until now had a fund specifically dedicated to the arts, it has a track record of effective management of funds in other areas, with access to leading professionals in the region and a staff skilled in fund management. I can therefore think of no better way to support the arts in Northern Virginia over the long term than to help launch a new fund at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia dedicated to the arts.
What legacy do you hope it will leave our region, particularly since it is an endowment and part of the Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia?
It is my hope that the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts will enable the Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia to foster the development and growth of arts groups of many kinds in our region far into the future, both to reinforce and explore our heritage, to illuminate in unexpected but constructive ways the problems of the day, and to allow future generations to push out the frontiers of artistic expression. Private support for the arts is more important than ever due to the constraints on public budgets, and establishment of the Ross-Roberts Fund gives the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia the potential to become a leader of arts support in our region.
How has your donor advised fund helped you achieve your philanthropic goals?
My donor advised fund, which focuses specifically on music, has been able to provide small scale assistance to a few groups. From personal experience, I know that these grants offered to organizations with a small budget can make a big difference. I now understand, however, that bigger things can happen when many people come together in a common effort, and I think the new Permanent Fund provides a way to make this happen in the arts. I now see the main function of my donor advised fund as jump-starting the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts, in the hope that others will join in the effort to give Northern Virginia a major resource for supporting the arts in our community for the long term. Please join me in supporting this new component of the Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My wife, Dr. Sue Goetz Ross, acted as volunteer Executive Director for a small singing group for several years before her death, and I then assumed that role for several more years. We both learned first-hand about the problems that small groups have finding financial support and the huge difference that even occasional grants or in our case individual gifts can make to a struggling arts group. Having just been through the first grant review process for the Ross-Roberts fund, I can see that timely grants can also have a big impact on much larger groups, the difference being essentially one of scale. I hope that the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts will become a source for high impact grants to Northern Virginia arts groups, both large and small. Thinking back, I realize that such a resource would have enabled Sue and me to think beyond survival and might even have resulted in our ad-hoc group becoming a permanent part of our community.