UMKC Alumni Award Winner Turns Love of the Arts into Philanthropic Life

Suzanne Shank's support for UMKC and the Kansas City arts community goes above and beyond
Suzanne Shank

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes outstanding alumni achievements with an awards celebration. Suzanne Shank (J.D., M.P.A ‘82) is the Class of 2024 Bill French Alumni Service Award recipient.

From a young age, Shank’s love of the arts shined bright as she committed herself to dance lessons, even performing with the Kansas City Ballet when it was part of the UMKC Conservatory. Despite not pursuing the arts in her professional life, Shank’s support for the place she once performed has been extensive. 

“I’ve always appreciated the arts and what they bring to the community,” Shank said. “I also recognize how necessary arts education is to a community.”

Shank has served on the Friends of the Conservatory Board and as a chair for Crescendo, the annual gala supporting student scholarships. In that role, she was instrumental in raising more than $1 million for student scholarships. In 2005, Suzanne and her late husband established the Suzanne Shank and Marty Smoler Scholarship, which supports a student studying in the Conservatory. 

“UMKC is so important to Kansas City, and I wanted to be philanthropic where my money would have the most impact,” Shank said. “UMKC has done such an amazing job supporting the needs of the surrounding community and that should be rewarded.”

Shank currently serves on the UMKC Board of Trustees as a vice chair and serves on the executive committee. In addition to serving on the Trustees’ Scholars Committee for many years, where she has been a thought leader and Trustees' Scholar mentor, she also serves on the Next Generation Trustees’ Scholars Working Group. She recently established the Suzanne Shank Trustees’ Scholars Scholarship.

Her impact on the Kansas City community goes well beyond her support of UMKC. She has actively participated in numerous nonprofit associations, showcasing her commitment to philanthropy and community development. Her leadership roles in local organizations such as the KC Ballet, the Symphony League and the Lyric Opera, have contributed significantly to the cultural and artistic fabric of Kansas City.

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