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Sally Skinner Behnke Remembered

Sally Skinner Behnke Remembered

: Sally Skinner Behnke at the 2012 "Neddy at Cornish" exhibition. Photo by Winifred Westergard.

Sally Skinner Behnke Remembered

: Mrs. Behnke with Ellen Rutledge (l) and former provost Lois Harris at the 2012 "Neddy at Cornish" exhibition. Photo by Winifred Westergard.

Sally Skinner Behnke Remembered

: Mrs. Behnke and family at the 2012 "Neddy at Cornish" exhibition. Photo by Winifred Westergard.

Sally Skinner Behnke Remembered

: Mrs. Behnke and family at the 2012 "Neddy at Cornish" exhibition. Photo by Winifred Westergard.

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Cornish says goodbye to a good friend.

The Cornish community was saddened to receive news this past week of Sally Skinner Behnke’s death at the age of 90. Sally Behnke leaves behind a close family in the Skinners and Behnkes, all of whom have a distinguished record of service to Seattle. A vital member of the Seattle community, Mrs. Behnke was a philanthropist and patron of the arts. Along with all she did for Cornish, she worked to better many local organizations. Her late husband, Robert Behnke, was for many years on Cornish’s board of trustees. The Seattle Times paid tribute to her in its pages.

“One of the precious experiences I have had since moving to Seattle in 2011 was the honor of knowing Sally Behnke,” says Cornish President Nancy Uscher. “Her warmth, intelligence and humanity infused every aspect of her life.  She was special in many ways – a leader, an original thinker, a caring family member who loved her family deeply and for whom family came first. Sally was broadly educated with a wide set of interests and yet was always eager to keep learning. I was greatly inspired by Sally. How nice it was to spend time with her this fall at her home, surrounded by the art and family photographs that she so loved.”

Sally Skinner Behnke’s association with Cornish continues through the two generations who follow her — her children and grandchildren — through the Neddy at Cornish program, set up and funded by the Behnke Foundation and administered by Cornish College of the Arts. The Neddy at Cornish is an annual artist award program supported by the Behnke Foundation and housed at Cornish College of the Arts in memory of Robert E. (“Ned”) Behnke and in celebration of his life as an artist, including his time teaching at the College. Each year, two $25,000 unrestricted awards are given.

“The artists, staff, and advisors of the Neddy at Cornish program are deeply saddened to hear of Sally Behnke’s passing,” says Jenifer K. Ward, dean of the college and Neddy at Cornish program director. “We have been humbled by her commitment to this program, to the legacy of her son, Ned, and to the artists her family’s generosity has supported over the years. The Puget Sound region’s art landscape is richer because of Sally Behnke, and we will miss her bright smile, even as we honor her memory, at future Neddy at Cornish events.”

In addition to Cornish’s work with the Neddy awards, since the 1980s, Cornish’s painting studio has been named for Ned Behnke.

Mrs. Behnke’s relationship with Cornish goes back two generations to her grandmother, Mrs. David Edward Skinner, who was a friend of College founder Nellie Cornish and a generous supporter of her work. Back in the early 1900s, women in Seattle were the leaders behind many civic and philanthropic enterprises. In 1924, Mrs. Skinner was, with Mrs. C.D. Stimson and Edgar Ames, a founder of the Cornish School Foundation. The foundation was instrumental in saving the school for Seattle after its first great financial shock in the recession of the early 1920s. Nellie Cornish had begun to investigate a move to Los Angeles when the group came up with a financial solution. The foundation became the owner of the Cornish School, which had before this time been Nellie’s sole property. In a sense, as much as the 1921 opening of the “new building” — now Kerry Hall —  the public ownership by the foundation represented the maturing of the school.

A memorial service for Sally Behnke is scheduled for Friday, January 10, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.


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