UWComm alumna LeeMaster (BA, ’57) featured by Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

Sharon Carey LeeMaster

“The key to becoming successful in the nonprofit world is to become interested in everything around you; ask questions, but LISTEN, take notes, network like crazy and volunteer,” says Sharon Carey LeeMaster, class of 1953. With almost 40 years of experience nationally in development, Sharon ought to know.

“Although some call me a fundraiser, I am much more,” she says. “I am a development professional who guides nonprofit organizations to fully serve the community and to operate in a businesslike way so that dollars raised fund their missions.” Sharon has spent half of her career working for various nonprofits, such as the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, La Jolla Music Society, Combined Arts and Education Council of San Diego County (COMBO), and the other half as a private consultant.

With a long list of accomplishments — Sharon has served over 45 organizations in a paid capacity and over 25 others as a volunteer — it is interesting to reflect that Sharon got into fundraising work when development wasn’t even a recognized field. So how did Sharon find herself in this line of work? I think it is safe to say, Sharon was “called” to this field. Her training by the nuns, she said, “provided the foundation, and each accomplishment can be directly traced to my Sacred Heart education.”

After graduating from FRC — Forest Ridge Convent, as it was called back then — Sharon attended the University of Washington, following in the footsteps of her parents and grandmother, Helen, who, in 1894, was the first woman to receive an advanced degree in pharmacy. Sharon planned to study law and be an attorney. However, her life took a different turn when she enrolled in a male- dominated professional journalism course (she was one of three women in the class); she later became the first woman to serve as associate editor of The Daily, the student-run newspaper.

Sharon liked journalism, and she accepted a position as an intern at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, but not before taking a three-month trip to Europe. Not one to sit idle, Sharon earned a certificate in music, art history and the German language at the Austro-American Society School in Salzburg — and met her husband, too! While in Europe, Sharon also maintained her Sacred Heart global connections through Eleanor Deming ’53, who was on the Forest Ridge Alumnae Board. Eleanor wrote to Sharon about an opportunity to attend the International Meeting of the Sacred Heart, the precursor to AMASC, the Sacred Heart international alumni association, in Bruxelles, Belgium, in 1958. There she met one of the Japanese alumnae, who later became the Empress of Japan!

This experience motivated Sharon to become more involved in Sacred Heart activities and to reconnect with the many RSCJs who gave her the encouragement and strength to pursue her dreams, especially at a time when women were not accepted readily into the workforce. Sharon particularly recalls Sr. Virginia McMonagle, Rev. Mother Viola Dorsey and Sr. Annette Bouret and their guidance while she was at FRC and again in San Diego after her move there in 1965.

Of her many accomplishments, Sharon is most proud of her work creating the fundraising plan for a national group to fund The First Ladies Exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., which culminated in 1991; her assistance in raising, in three months, the necessary funds for a down payment to acquire a new Osteopathic Center for Children and Families when there was no support system in place; and guiding the San Diego Education Fund for over 20 years to fund and mentor students from underserved communities to become teachers and provide diversity in the profession.

Sharon continues to this day to draw strength from her Sacred Heart roots. Sharon shares, “I begin each day with a fond pat on the head of my statue of Mater, praying, “What can we accomplish today? Give me the strength and guidance!” Judging from Sharon’s long list of accomplishments, Mater is, no doubt, helping.

Julie Lundgren
Director of Alumnae Relations