The Arizona Community Foundation staff and board, both past and present, mourn the passing of Betty Rosenzweig last week. Betty and her husband, Newt, who passed away in 2002, were generous Arizonans who helped shape the civic and charitable landscape of our community through their professional and philanthropic endeavors.
Their story began more than a half-century ago. A 1927 graduate of the University of Michigan, Newton Rosenzweig worked in his father’s downtown Phoenix jewelry store, later known as I. Rosenzweig and Sons—a name synonymous with quality and customer service. After serving in World War II as an army lieutenant in transportation and special services, Newt returned to booming post-war growth and opportunities to expand his entrepreneurial and civic/cultural interests. He married Elizabeth J. Dabney, “Betty,” in 1956.
Together, the Rosenzweigs helped launch, served on boards and raised funds for more than 75 local organizations, including The Phoenix Symphony, Phoenix Art Museum, Valley of the Sun United Way, Foundation for Blind Children, American Jewish Committee, Arizona State University and St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s and Phoenix Memorial Hospital. Seeing a need at the Phoenix Memorial Hospital for outpatient surgery to help low-income families, the Rosenzweigs generously donated an ambulatory surgery unit. Betty chaired the Phoenix Heart Ball in 1969.
Although childless, they had an abiding interest in children's health care, early education, and overall welfare.
In 2008, our staff interviewed Betty Rosenzweig for the Arizona Community Foundation’s 30th anniversary annual report. When asked about philanthropy, Betty said that only one word came to mind: “Newt.” She was speaking, of course, of her late husband, hailed as a civic giant and named Man of the Year by too many Valley organizations to list.
Betty told us that it was Newt who worked with developer Del E. Webb to build what was known as the Rosenzweig Center, now Phoenix City Square. It was Newt who co-founded Phoenix’s Charter Government Committee in 1949, a group which ousted corrupt city officials and launched the political career of his lifelong friend Barry Goldwater.
And it was Newt who, in 1978, convinced his brother Harry to join him in making a substantial joint gift to the Arizona Community Foundation. It was this act that established the first recorded fund at ACF, and helped solidify the Foundation’s future. Newt never stopped giving, establishing a second fund at ACF in 1980, which Betty continued to advise after his passing.
“When I married him, I was not used to being so philanthropic,” Betty said with emphasis. “But Newt felt Phoenix had given him a good life and his goal was not to get more, more, more. He didn’t have those urges.” Instead, she said, he wanted to give back to the community where he spent all 96 years of his life.
“He was such a good, loving person,” Betty recalled of Newt at the time. “To everybody. People didn’t have to ask him.”
Although the couple loved to travel, Arizona remained their heart and home, and Newt believed they had a responsibility to contribute to its welfare and growth. “He thought Phoenix should have a fund like other places, and that’s why he helped start the Foundation,” she said. “Arizona was special to him. So was the Arizona Community Foundation. And you have to look after the things you care about.”
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