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.