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Longtime local arts supporter Suzanne Gouvernet has died

Suzanne Gouvernet, a long time supporter of arts in the Rochester area, has died at the age of 83.
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Suzanne Gouvernet, a long time supporter of arts in the Rochester area, has died at the age of 83.

A longtime supporter of the arts community in Rochester has died.

Suzanne Gouvernet was a backer and cheerleader for many of the musicians and other artists in the Rochester area over the years, but she is especially known for her support of local opera.

Gouvernet, who died early Friday at the age of 83 after various health challenges in recent years, had been a Vice President of Finger Lakes Opera.

The organization’s President, Rose-Marie Klipstein, knew her well, and said that Gouvernet, who grew up in New York City, and at one point was a ballet dancer there, really embraced the arts and cultural community when she settled in Rochester.

“She gave of herself in terms of board service, she gave of her money, her time, her connections,” said Klipstein, “and I cannot imagine what this place would be, or would have become without her support.”

Klipstein also noted that Gouvernet was not looking for a lot of public recognition for her efforts.

“She also gave anonymously to support students, especially at Eastman and bought coats for children in schools, winter coats, did things anonymously without asking for any credit,” said Klipstein.

Steven Daigle, an Emeritus Professor of Opera at the Eastman School of Music, said that Gouvernet really energized musicians and other artists.

“She’s played an important part of getting what we love to do out into the community, and so in a way, there are many students, many disciples and artists that have benefited from someone like Suzanne because of her support,” Daigle said.

Simeon Bannister, President and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, said that when he came to work at the Community Foundation, Gouvernet “was serving on our program distributions committee and continued to do so all the way up to last week, we were engaged with Suzanne and she was a friend, someone that was personally supportive for me and my journey here at the foundation.”

Gouvernet was also an Honorary Trustee at WXXI, and the organization’s President & CEO, Norm Silverstein, noted that Gouvernet “was a passionate supporter of so many arts organizations including WXXI and The Little Theatre.” He said that Gouvernet “dedicated much of her life’s work to ensuring that arts and culture are preserved for future generations.”

And that was a sentiment expressed by Gouvernet in avideo interviewposted by the Community Foundation. She said that growing up in New York City, “the arts were always part of my life, if we can have some of those things locally, that’s a very good thing, but we have to support them, because if we don’t support them, they will go away.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.