Honoring the Legacy of Sandra K. Butler: Creating a World Where All Women and Girls Can Thrive


(L-r) Sandra K. Butler and Mary Lee Dayton, founding mothers of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. (Sept. 2011)

On March 10, Sandra K. Butler, a founding mother of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, passed away at age 83. Sandy was an early role model for visionary, confident, women philanthropists dedicated to creating a world that valued women’s equal participation in all areas of public and private life.

In 1984, Sandy and her dear friend, Mary Lee Dayton, agreed to play major fundraising roles in building the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota’s $10 million endowment. As co-chairs of the major gifts campaign, they raised $5 million from individuals, foundations, and corporations in just over two years.

In an interview in 2011, Mary Lee described their passion, conviction, and good walking shoes. “We were passionate about the mission. Sandy had connections in St. Paul and I had connections in Minneapolis. She taught me the St. Paul skyway system, and even the Minneapolis one!” It took them another 13 years, but the $10 million endowment was raised and the future of the very first statewide women’s foundation in the country was secured.

From a young age, philanthropy and giving back was a strong Butler family value. Sandy served as the first program director of her family’s Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation became a lead philanthropic supporter of women-focused programs, providing early funding for Chrysalis, Domestic Abuse Project, Jeremiah Program, Tubman Family Alliance, and Women’s Advocates. The Women’s Foundation became a core organization supported by the Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation, which has invested more than $1.5 million in the Foundation, to date.

A natural change-agent and courageous leader, Sandy lent financial support and credibility, early on, to programs that advocated against hate speech and provided services for women who were being sex trafficked.

In Sept. 2011, the Women’s Foundation recognized Sandy as the Mary Lee Dayton Catalyst for Change Award honoree for her lifetime commitment to gender equity and leadership to create a world where all women and girls can create and lead safe, prosperous lives.