Richard H. Whitney Fund for the Common Good

(formerly the Richard H. Whitney Memorial Fund)


Richard H. (Dick) Whitney

Richard H. (Dick) Whitney died March 23 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born in Phoenix on November 6, 1937, a third-generation Phoenician. His grandparents, Clarence and Maude Whitney, moved their family of eight children from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Phoenix in 1910 and established their dairy farm in Glendale, at Northern Avenue and Lateral 19. His mother, JonnieBeth, was a teacher; his father, Forest, was the business manager of the Arizona Republic.

Dick was a proud graduate of North High School and maintained many lifelong friendships with members of the class of 1956. He attended Claremont Men's College and held B. S., M.B.A. and law degrees from the University of Arizona.

A passionate civic and community leader, Dick was an attorney with Gust Rosenfeld for more than 55 years, spending his entire distinguished career there. He joined the firm in 1963, having started as an office boy in 1961. He said he was inspired to become an attorney by Devens Gust, who emphasized competence, responsiveness and services, qualities Whitney himself demonstrated.

His law practice was estate planning, probate and trust administration. Dick represented clients with intergenerational family issues and nonprofits, many of which were arts-related. He is a member of the State Bar of Arizona and the American Bar Association.

"Dick exemplifies the excellence, integrity and high standards of the legal profession," said Tom Chauncey, a member of the Gust Rosenfeld Executive Committee. "But just as important, he epitomizes the long-standing commitment that our firm has to serving this community."

Dick's clients often refer to him affectionately as the modern-day legal equivalent of a country doctor who made house calls, if needed. He always took time to assure his clients that he truly cared. Highly regarded by his peers, he served on Gust Rosenfeld's Executive Committee and was a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel's membership selection committee, nominating committee; he served as a regent and chairman for Arizona.

Whitney was included in the Trust and Estates category of The Best Lawyers of America ®, recognized in AZ Business Leaders for Estate Planning in 2016, the Trusts and Estates category of The Best Lawyers in America ® (1983-2019) and Southwest Super Lawyers ® for Estate Planning & Probate (2007-2015). He was AV® Preeminent ™ rated by Martindale-Hubble ® representing the highest rating in legal ability and ethical standards.

Countless arts and civic organizations in Arizona benefitted from Dick's leadership, energy, and commitment to volunteerism. He was the founding chairman of the Arizona State University Art Museum Advisory Board, and a former board member of the Arizona Theater Company, Heard Museum, and the Museum of Northern Arizona. Dick also served as chairman of the University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center, president of the Friendly House, and a board member of the Florence Crittenton Services of Arizona.

Most currently he served as President of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society Board (PCMS) of Directors. Dick credited his mother for his love of music, explaining that she played a piano every day his grandmother ordered from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. 

Four years ago he established the Whitney Scholarship program for music students from seven Title 1 Phoenix schools. The program provides students, their music teachers and parents tickets to PCMS concerts. Dick was also instrumental in organizing and overseeing the Composer in Residence program for PCMS and helped the organization secure its own concert grand piano. 

To honor his grandparents, in 2016 Dick and Linda donated a Corten steel sculpture to the City of Glendale Main Library. The seven foot by three foot piece was created by Arizona artist Michael Anderson.

After meeting Lewis Ruskin, one of the foremost art leaders in Phoenix during the early 1960s, Dick was asked to craft the enabling legislation that established the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Humanities as a state agency. The legislation was signed into law on March 13, 1967, by then-Governor Jack Williams. Later, Governor Bruce Babbitt appointed Whitney to serve as the Arts Commission's third chairman.

In 2017, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Commission, Dick and Linda Whitney were honored with the Shelley Award for their efforts on behalf of arts and culture. 

In 1977, through his legal work at Gust Rosenfeld representing the Valley National Bank, Dick wrote the white paper that made the case and laid out the strategy to start a community foundation for Arizona. His idea led to five banks joining together to fund the foundation for three years, covering all administration costs, which allowed the foundation to operate and not compete with other nonprofits for support. In addition to founding the Arizona Community Foundation, he served five years as its chairman.

Dick Whitney is survived by his wife of 50 years Linda, his two daughters Judy Ray (Billy Ray) and Desha Whitney, his two beloved grandchildren William and Hayden Ray, and his brother John Whitney and wife Mary. 

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