Just two days into retirement — after 23 years at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and 16 years before that as special assistant to former Mayor and Gov. William Donald Schaefer — Lainy LeBow-Sachs was feeling a bit restless.
“I’m in a state of shock that I’m retired,” she said. “When I woke up this morning, I thought, ‘I gotta get going, I gotta go to work.’ But there’s no work to go to. It’s a weird feeling.”
For LeBow-Sachs, 73, having time to unwind will take some getting used to. In addition to her professional life, LeBow-Sachs currently serves on the boards of Beth Am Synagogue, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Baltimore Jewish Council (where she is a past president), the BB&T advisory board and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. So even though she’s stepping away from Kennedy Krieger, “retirement” might not be the right word.
In her career, LeBow-Sachs made her presence indispensable. During her tenure at Kennedy Krieger Institute, she led three capital campaigns that raised $117 million for construction of Institute buildings and founded the Institute’s external relations department. What started as a one-woman department now has 34 employees handling philanthropic, public relations, marketing and fundraising operations for the organization.
“She’s made an indelible mark on the Institute and her outreach and relationship building has helped us transform and expand our North Broadway, Fairmount and Montgomery County school campuses to serve greater numbers of children with our hope, education, research and healing,” said Dr. Bradley Schlaggar, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute, in a statement. “She has helped us change the trajectory of thousands of children’s lives.”
Before she started at Kennedy Krieger, LeBow-Sachs’ work with Schaefer gained her local and statewide notoriety. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, LeBow-Sachs arrived in Baltimore in 1970. After volunteering on Schaefer’s successful 1979 mayoral campaign, he offered her a job. Having seen his empathetic demeanor, LeBow-Sachs knew Schaefer was someone she could work with.
“He cared so much about people. He talked about that throughout his career,” she said. “I admired that in him so much. He stuck to it. He never forgot about the little person or the big person. It didn’t matter who you were.”
Those who worked with LeBow-Sachs describe her in similarly admiring terms.
Dr. Nancy Grasmick was appointed as Maryland’s first female superintendent of schools when LeBow-Sachs was then-Gov. Schaefer’s point of contact. Grasmick said she spoke with LeBow-Sachs on a daily basis. She and other members of Schaefer’s cabinet took LeBow-Sach’s word quite seriously.
“Lainy was the person who would clue us in and give us the tip we needed to satisfy the governor,” said Grasmick. “We depended on her to guide us in terms of what his expectations were.”
After the end of Schaefer’s second term as governor, LeBow-Sachs took a year off so she could “figure out who I was and what I wanted to do.” During that time, Dr. Gary Goldstein, then-CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute, recruited her.
“We had a wonderful breakfast, and he talked to me about Kennedy Krieger,” she said. “It just felt right and felt good.”
LeBow-Sachs has a tendency to facilitate meaningful connections. Her daughter Carrie LeBow is the executive vice president of resource development and marketing for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. LeBow credits her mother for inspiring her to pursue a career in communications and marketing. Her mother, she said, always saw her goals through.
“If she made a commitment to something, she saw it through 110 percent,” said LeBow. “I watched her do that, and that’s how I was raised. That’s what Schaefer expected of her, and that’s what she expected from me.”
After Grasmick stepped down as Maryland superintendent of schools, she credits LeBow-Sachs for working “behind the scenes,” and getting her a position at Kennedy Krieger, where she is currently co-director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education at Kennedy Krieger Institute. This connection proved not only to be another example of LeBow-Sachs’ matchmaking abilities, but another major development at Kennedy Krieger that owes to LeBow-Sachs’ creativity.
“Where Kennedy Krieger was when she got there and where it is today is completely different,” said LeBow of her mother’s influence at the Institute.
Of her many accomplishments, LeBow-Sachs cites her capital campaigns for Kennedy Krieger some of her proudest moments, though they were also her biggest challenges.
“That’s not an easy thing to do. But everything that I was involved in, I believed deeply in. That made a big difference when going to ask someone for money,” she said. “They knew it was a sincere ask.”
Grasmick, however, described the challenge not as raising capital, but as saying no to LeBow-Sachs.
“If you interviewed people who contributed financially, either politically or to Kennedy Krieger, those people would say, ‘I cannot say no to Lainy,’” said Grasmick. “She’s really a person who has very unique qualities and used them for such a good purpose.”
LeBow-Sachs said people sometimes did tell her no, but most of the time she got what was looking for.
“If someone said no, I’d say, ‘How do you spell that? I don’t know what the word means.”