Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr.

Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr.

Died December 14, 2007

Sumner Crosby, who comes from a long line of Yalies, started out with the Class of ’63 and graduated in 1965. By then, he had already been married for six years to Susan Bliss Wintringham (Goucher ’59) and had two young boys, which probably explains why he wasn’t seen much around Trumbull.

Sum stayed on in New Haven, first in banking and then as a vice president for Insurance Management Inc. People who worked for him could not say enough good things about him. “Every time I took him a problem, he fought for me,” one of them wrote. “More importantly, Sumner taught me to be involved in the community and to always help other people. Sumner . . . would help anyone.” If a secretary in the office had a bad situation at home but couldn’t get out of it because of the kids, he would write her a check to hire an attorney. He had been hired by IMI because he was well-connected in the New Haven and Yale communities. He could open doors, but when it came to dealing with his clients, “he didn’t care if it was a poor file clerk in New Haven or the president of a corporation, he treated everyone the same.”

Sum and Sue, who met at age 13, were a philanthropic duo who used the family’s Carolyn Foundation and their own generosity to support community service projects. One of their first was a summer tutorial program for inner-city kids. They also underwrote the Common Ground School – the first environmentally focused charter school in the nation. Sum was on the board of Long Wharf, the waterfront of New Haven which was transformed into a mixed-use district including businesses, retail stores, a park, a college and a theater. Both Sum and Sue were founding members of the United Way Tocqueville Society, an organization of individuals who contributed at least $10,000 annually to United Way causes.

Today in New Haven you can visit the Sumner McKnight Crosby Gallery, so named in recognition of the work he did and the money he raised for the local Arts Council. After he retired in the 90s, he devoted much of his time and energy to reviving the arts in New Haven when they were regarded as a frill by the city and state when it came to funding. Through him, the Carolyn Foundation funded the hiring of a top flight cultural planning agency and in 1998 he was elected president of the Board of the Arts Council, which put him in charge of managing the funding for the cultural renaissance of the Greater New Haven Region. Among other things, he helped bring the International Festival of Arts and Ideas to New Haven. An alderman who worked under him wrote “Sumner . . . was everything you want in a terrific boss – accessible, kind, sensible and wise.”

Sum died on December 14, 2007, five years after Sue had passed away. Their philanthropy continues today through the Susan Wintringham Crosby scholarship at Goucher College and the Clifford Beers Clinic Susan W. Crosby Endowment Fund.

Gary Roberts remembers: His wife, whom I much liked, was a trustee of the genealogical society for which I worked (hers was another death too soon).