Inspiring the next generation to give back

Susan and James Kennedy share their philanthropic spirit with the next generation by investing with the Foundation.

“It (2020) seemed like an important year to be generous,” Susan Matthews explains, noting particularly the impact COVID-19 has had on the state, its nonprofits, and the people here. “This past summer, COVID brought the Foundation into the forefront of my thinking,” she continues.

Susie and her husband, James Kennedy, acted on that thinking, contributing first to the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, followed by support of the Civic Leadership Fund, and finally the establishment of this donor advised fund.

Susie, who grew up in Stonington, CT and New York City, came to Rhode Island as a student at Brown University. She earned an undergraduate degree there in visual arts, followed by two master’s degrees at Rhode Island School of Design, one in the art of teaching and the other in ceramics.

Today, she works primarily in ceramics and textiles, saying simply, “I make things that I want to exist in the world and that I want to share with other people.” She has exhibited in galleries across Rhode Island, as well as in Massachusetts and New York.

James, a native Rhode Islander, graduated from Cumberland High School before studying boatbuilding in Maine. It is a craft he continues today, along with carpentry.

The couple’s two children, Jane and Peter, are, Susie shares, one of the reasons they decided to establish this fund. “We want to start them on the path of giving back to the community,” she explains.

The family gives back now through involvement with numerous nonprofit organizations near their home in Jamestown. In addition to supporting the Martin Luther King Center, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and Save The Bay, among others, Susie has served on the boards of the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation, the Jamestown Education Foundation, and the Jamestown Arts Center.

“Rhode Island Foundation has been omnipresent ever since I got involved with nonprofits in Rhode Island. I was impressed with how the Foundation stepped up toward the beginning of the pandemic and was able to do something quickly. That really appealed to me, and led me to take action in a way I hadn’t previously,” Susan concludes.