Journalism in the Public Interest


RIP, Marion O. Sandler


Marion Sandler

Marion O. Sandler's name isn't listed formally on this site, but ProPublica literally wouldn't exist without her. She died yesterday at 81, and we will, each and all of us, miss her deeply. Details of her amazing life can be found at a special website just set up: it's here.

Marion shaped every key decision that brought ProPublica into being: joining her husband and longtime partner (in both business and life) Herb Sandler — our Founding Chairman — in selecting Paul Steiger to run it, interviewing key staff, crafting its name herself, choosing its magnifying glass logo from a range of possibilities she had commissioned, pushing for a better web design than the one with which we launched. The Sandler Foundation, funded through the astounding 43-year success of Golden West Financial Corporation, where Marion and Herb were co-CEO's, provided nearly all of the money to launch ProPublica, and still nearly half of the money we received last year. Marion participated actively in every ProPublica Board meeting until the most recent one; only her last illness could keep her away. Usually in such sessions, she was knitting except when speaking; always, she was listening carefully, and her points were as tightly focused as her stitches.

For all of that, Marion also championed ProPublica's editorial independence. She never saw a story before it was published, never asked to, never tried to interfere in news or editorial matters in any way — always insisted that no donor or Board member do so.

But that does not mean that Marion was a "hands off" philanthropist. Donors receive deference by dint of what they can do financially for non-profits. But Marion Sandler earned their deepest respect, bringing decades of rigorous and successful experience as a manager and financial analyst to the effective functioning of mission-based organizations about which she cared. It is our great good fortune — and yours as readers, we think — that she cared about this one. We mourn her loss.

May she truly be at peace. I for one do appreciate her efforts in regards to ProPublica. May God bless her soul and give comfort to those who are mourning her loss.

Marilyn Gray Mensinger

June 4, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

My first employer was World Savings in Oakland. I was so impressed with Mrs. Sandler’s amazing accomplishments at that time (in the 1970’s) that I named my daughter Leah after her because I admired her so much. Please share my heartfelt condolences with Mr. Sandler and their children - may she rest in eternal peace and her legacy of philanthropy will certainly live forever through the many lives she has touched.

Thank you for the thoughtful and reflective piece on Marion Sandler and her life. Your article invites the reader to be inspired by her. I was glad to read words crafted to demonstrate such respect, and which showed great care.

I worked for the Sandlers at World Savings for 25 years before it was sold to Wachovia, and was always inspired by both Mr. and Mrs Sandler.  They had the respect of all of the people I worked with and I am saddened to hear of her passing.  She was a remarkable person, and your article was wonderful.  I still defend them both and World Savings for their way of doing business, and if all banks had needed to live or die by the profits they actually made, perhaps we would not be in the housing mess we are in.  The Sandlers did things right, and I miss working for them.  My heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family.

Sorry - but they helped create the financial crisis with subprime interest-only or pick-a-pay mortgages.  The person who says they did things right is wrong.  They happened to do things right by getting out with very good timing before things crashed.

At least some of the money was spent in a good way by creating this company/website, but I will not give her a pass on the pick a payment loans…

Catherine Tripp

June 14, 2012, 11:47 a.m.

I worked for World Savings for a number of years, and admired the Sandlers for their efficiency and attention to their customers, but their tight controls on expenses affected my salary, so I moved on - no hard feelings.  Their underwriting standards were strict and fair.  Wachovia was an insurance company out of their depth who blamed their own incompetence on the Sandlers, a dishonorable untruth.  Thanks to Jesse Eisenger and ProPublica, we know who the real culprits of the global economic meltdown were, and most certainly adjustable rate mortgages were NOT the cause.

Great observation Catherine.  If only the adjustable rate mortgages World Savings did was the problem, we would not have so many homeowners with fixed rate loans losing their homes to foreclosure.  The problem runs much deeper than the pick a pay loans…..

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