Cynthia Henderson Kuespert passed away at the age of 88 on March 13, 2023. Born in Lincoln Nebraska, daughter of Clyde P. and Winifred Henderson, Cynthia was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Nebraska in 1956, majoring in journalism and English. Nearly 30 years later she earned a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. Ever the student, she enjoyed classes at the Academy of Lifelong Learning and wrote a novel, “Isaac’s Call,” tracking relationships among an interracial family on the Maryland Eastern Shore across generations.
Cynthia’s marriage in 1956 to Warren B. Burt drew her to the East Coast, first to the University of Virginia where she worked in the University Personnel office, and transcribed lectures of guest writer, William Faulkner. After moving to Delaware and the birth of her sons David and John, she became immersed in community activities. She served as President of the Junior League of Wilmington in 1973, the Children’s Bureau of Delaware, and the Delaware Association of Kappa Kappa Gamma. The first major grant she obtained supported founding a home for delinquency-prone teenagers in cooperation with the Division of Juvenile Corrections. She has also served on the councils of the Delaware State Arts Council and the Delaware Humanities Forum.
Returning to full time employment in 1976, Cynthia was hired by the Delaware Arts Council to organize a clearinghouse calendar for the arts. Shortly thereafter she became Coordinator of the Arts and Bicentennial Coordinator for the City of Wilmington, both programs of the mayor’s office. In those capacities she founded the Wilmington Arts Commission and started the first Fourth of July celebration sponsored by the City of Wilmington. During this era of high unemployment in the city, Cynthia ran special projects using federal funds for the City’s Division of Manpower Development, managed the City Sights-City Sounds programs that employed many artists, and produced the book “Wilmington Awake”, a photo essay of Wilmington during the Bicentennial year. She also was responsible for an employment program that placed many women in higher paying non-traditional positions.
In 1979, Cynthia became Executive Director of Christina Cultural Arts Center, the only non-African American to hold that position. In 1981 she was recruited by Wilmington Friends School where she was Director of Development and Alumni Activities until 1994. During this time, she earned her CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) from the National Society of Fundraising Executives (now AFP), became one of the founders of the Brandywine Chapter of NSFRE, was elected vice-president for External Affairs of the national professional organization of NSFRE, and one year was named Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year by the local chapter. She engaged in national lobbying efforts to encourage increased tax advantages for contributions to non-profit organizations.
In 1983, Cynthia married Don R. Kuespert and became stepmother to Jonathan and Jeanne Kuespert. In 1994, she followed her heart to become director of the capital campaign to raise $5 million for the renovation of Westminster Presbyterian Church, retiring from her beloved Wilmington Friends School. She continued to be deeply involved in her church, serving as a Deacon, Elder, and in many other capacities.
At the close of the Westminster campaign, she joined MacIntyre Associates, eventually becoming vice president. She assisted many non-profits in major fundraising, to include Grace Methodist Church, Gilpin Hall, West Side Health Center, the Elementary Workshop, Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church, Connections, Overbrook Presbyterian Church, Newark Presbyterian Church, Pencader Community Center, the Kent School, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Sojourner’s Place and others, finally retiring at the age of 71.
In 2003, Don and Cynthia moved to Coniston, a Kendal retirement community, near Kennett Square. They relished many days at their cottage on the Elk River near Chesapeake City, Maryland, especially times of family sharing.
Our family’s hearts are warmed by the descriptions of Cynnie’s character that have flooded in: a light of beauty, grace and loving kindness; perceptive, kindly and humorous; someone who always made you feel like one of her closest, most interesting friends; and the best Nama a kid could ever hope to have. And above all, energetically devoted to leaving the world better for her being.
Cynthia was predeceased by her loving husband, Don. Surviving are her children David H. Burt (Audrey Whiteside), John W. Burt (Sheridan K. K. Lorentzen), Jonathan G. Kuespert (Paula Kurata), and Jeanne K. Roberts (James Durban Roberts); six grandchildren: Evan W. and Matthew H. Burt, Logan P. and Zachary G. Kuespert, and Erica G. and Alicia C. Roberts; devoted life partner of five years, Walter K. Stapleton; her Nebraska family, and many far-flung nieces and nephews.
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