Spousal Connections

The Nathan Cummings Foundation


Spousal Connections

Sonia Simon Cummings, Steve Durchslag, Roberta Friedman Cummings
Trustees, Nathan Cummings Foundation

SSC: Steve, did you feel as a spouse that you were right away involved in decision-making or was there a time when the foundation was created when you were still on the outside on the periphery of those discussions?

SD: Well I guess I suffer from chutzpah, cause I always felt from the beginning that I had something to contribute, based on my legal background and my thinking and my strong commitment, particularly in the Jewish heritage area. I felt my voice was always heard as an equal, but that might be blinders on my part. 

SSC: My husband was very welcoming and I know from history that he was one of the first proponents of bringing spouses into the family foundation and I felt it a privilege. I was very nervous at first, because I knew I had to prove myself and it was challenging at times, but I worked hard and I became very involved and I do feel that it was and it is an incredible privilege. A lot of other foundations do not invite their spouse or relatives. 

RFC: Rick (Cummings) would always joke about it. He would say, ‘I’m an associate, but my wife’s a trustee’ and there was never any sense of competition or anything else and I would always encourage him. Here we are in 2011 and after many years Rick has decided to become a trustee for which now we are equals, it’s an equal playing field, although I never felt anything other than equal playing field, because there isn’t a great distinction. 

Whether you’ve married in, whether you’re a spouse or you’re a lineal descendent or whether you’re an associate or a trustee, I think that everyone plays on a level playing field. 

SSC: I feel the same way as you, Roberta. With my husband I never felt competition. On the contrary, it enables us to talk about more things and really get involved and engaged in the community and in the work that we all do with intensity and passion and the caring—the common bond. So that has made us richer. 

SD: And I certainly would feel that we have all benefited from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and hopefully through our participation have made the world somewhat of a better place.