Donor - Sue Sword

When it comes to charitable giving throughout the Santa Maria Valley, there is no name better recognized than that of Sue J. Sword.

As the Co-Trustee of the Marian Mullin Hancock Charitable Trust, it is Sue who has continued Captain Allan and Marian Hancock's local philanthropic leadership. In addition to furthering the Hancock's tradition of charitable giving, Sue has also built her own legacy of philanthropy and volunteerism - all in order to boldly shape a better world.

Over the years, Sue has helped establish Santa Maria's philanthropy scene and has remained at the forefront of local altruistic giving efforts since moving to Santa Maria in 1945. It was nearly 70 years ago when Sue decided to make Santa Maria her home.

She describes her move from Texas to Santa Maria as a simple one and recalls, "I moved to Santa Maria to be closer to my sister who at the time was a nurse at the hospital, then known as Sisters' Hospital. I came to Santa Maria and fell in love with the community so I stayed and made it my home."

Not long after arriving in Santa Maria, Sue married her husband of nearly 50 years, Erl Julian Sword, and began working for the Hancock enterprises. For more than 50 years, Sue was a devoted employee, faithful financial advisor and dear friend to the Hancocks. Marian Hancock quickly recognized Sue's intelligence and high level of professionalism, which led to Sue's eventual rise to the position of President of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. Even to this day, Sue holds the distinction of serving as the only female president of a short line railroad west of the Mississippi. Although Marian noticed many professional qualities in Sue, she also valued Sue's giving heart and their shared love of philanthropy.

As a local leader of philanthropic giving, Sue has established a record of exceptional generosity and charitable responsibility. By serving on countless community boards and with an endless list of philanthropic achievements and honors, it is evident that Sue has committed her life to investing in positive community change and expansion. She has long supported just about every civic and nonprofit organization in the greater Santa Maria Valley from Marian Regional Medical Center to the Santa Maria Valley Boys and Girls Club, to the YMCA, Allan Hancock College and every large and small organization in between.

Sue served on the Marian Hospital Community Board and also served as one of the founding members of the Marian Foundation Board. Since the Marian Foundation Board's inception in 1982, she has also served faithfully over the years by participating in the board finance and policy committees. To this day, Sue continues to serve as an Honorary Marian Foundation Board Member and devotedly attends Foundation board meetings and events.

"There is no denying that Sue is an exceptional woman, an innovative philanthropist and committed community leader," explains Georganne Ferini, a close friend of Sue's and fellow community advocate. "Due to her involvement and support of Marian Regional Medical Center and countless other causes, she has become a key player in the many successes of and improvements in our community. Sue is a woman who will go the extra mile to honor her commitments and her work is evident of her selfless passion to help others."

The importance of building a foundation for future giving

Despite Sue's lifetime of philanthropic service, she's far from done. In 1993, Sue became a founding member of the Marian Foundation's Legacy Society by including Marian Regional Medical Center in her estate planning as the Sue J. Sword Heart Center Endowment Fund. She has dedicated her planned endowment gift to the Marian Heart Center due to her great admiration and respect for her longtime cardiologist, Dr. Ram K. Setty.

Through the Marian Legacy Society, the Foundation expresses gratitude to those, like Sue, who have included Marian in their estate planning. Furthermore, Sue has long been a supporter of the Foundation's need to establish and maintain an endowment to ensure a revenue stream for the future needs of the medical center. In fact, it was her visionary leadership and wisdom that played a significant role in the creation of the Foundation's operating policies to steward growth of endowment funds. Her generosity has provided significant support to every major capital endeavor throughout the Foundation's history. Most recently, Sue supported the Cornerstone Campaign to build the new hospital and in tribute to her generosity the colonnade outside the hospital main entrance is named in her honor.

When asked about her motivation for building her own legacy of giving and why she felt compelled to identify the Marian Regional Medical Center Foundation as a deferred gift beneficiary, Sue offers, "The hospital is close to my heart. Marian Regional Medical Center stands for our community and the care they provide touches everyone. It's very fulfilling knowing that the work they do and the contributions made will further advance care and benefit the future people of Santa Maria."

A gift unlike any other

Although Sue and Marian Hancock both shared a love of charitable giving, they also shared a love of music - especially an admiration for baby grand pianos.

Sue is quite familiar with making donations to the hospital and other charitable organizations, but for this particular donation she knew it would take more than writing a check. She eagerly conducted research on baby grand pianos and then shared her idea of this special gift with hospital leaders.

"I wanted to provide a gift for the new hospital that everyone would enjoy. One day I thought that's it - a baby grand piano for the hospital's front lobby," explains Sue. "Music is powerful. I wanted to provide a gift that provided soothing and comforting relief to patients and those visiting the hospital."

Now patients, their families and hospital staff take great listening pleasure in the peaceful and relaxing sounds of the newly donated baby grand piano. This beautiful and pristine piano plays classical melodies four times a day and fittingly stands just outside the chapel doors on the first floor of the new hospital as the shining star of the "Sue Sword Colonnade."

When asked what she believes Marian Hancock would say to see her work and the present Marian Regional Medical Center, Sue tenderly smiles and adds, "She would be very, very pleased and would probably say 'My Susie is keeping things going.' She would be truly elated to know that I was carrying things forward. As for Marian Regional Medical Center, she had a specific vision for the hospital and community health care. Seeing the new hospital today and knowing all the services the medical center offers our community, I know she would feel as if all her dreams came true."

Sue goes on to modestly explain that it is her mission and sincerest hope to foster philanthropy for the greater good of the community. She believes in the same philosophy as Marian Hancock, that charitable giving builds and strengthens a community.

"I want to inspire others to also support our organizations. But it's about more than giving," states Sue. "It's about getting involved. Taking an interest in community organizations and volunteering. This is not only beneficial for fellow community members, it is also truly gratifying. I have seen so many changes over the years and have enjoyed every moment of it. There is no better feeling than to be involved in your community and to make a difference in the lives of others."

On behalf of Marian Regional Medical Center and the community at large, the Marian Foundation would like to express heartfelt gratitude to Sue for her legacy of service and generosity. Her unwavering belief in the medical center's work is genuine and from the heart. Sue's friendship and support of Marian Regional Medical Center is a special gift which will be forever treasured.