A civic leader of great compassion and wide reach, and an ardent supporter of the Cambridge Community Foundation, Ellen Moot died in Chocorua, N.H., on September 3, 2016.
“Ellen was involved in everything in Cambridge,” said Patricia Pratt, who herself served 13 years on the Foundation board with a 12-year stint as president. “She knew so much – so she ran the distribution committee.”
After years of helping to shape the Foundation’s grantmaking work, Ellen finally stepped down in May of 2001 after serving for 18 years. Made an honorary board member at that point, she accepted her new status as a professional opportunity – and continued to attend board meetings and contribute from a seemingly bottomless fund of knowledge and compassion.
“In spirit and in deed, she shaped the Foundation,” said Robert Hurlbut, longtime executive director of the organization, who retired in 2015. “She urged me to join it after I retired as headmaster of the Park School. Her knowledge of Cambridge and of the nonprofit organizations that served it and contributed to the qualities that make this city so special was truly inspiring.”
Her engagement with the Foundation has continued.
“I was delighted to meet Ellen earlier this year,” said Geeta Pradhan, current president and CEO of the organization. “It was a chance to thank her for her great generosity – for all that she and her family have done for Cambridge through the Foundation. And she was still fully engaged. We came away from that visit with names of people she thought we should meet and good ideas about the work of the Foundation.”
A graduate of Shady Hill School (and later a Shady Hill parent), Ellen graduated from Radcliffe College and earned a Master’s Degree in foreign affairs from Yale University. She worked in Washington, D.C., in foreign policy research, which she continued at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs after marriage to John R. Moot brought her back to Cambridge.
Her commitment to local organizations was formidable, including service with the Cambridge Somerville Department of Mental Health Area Board and the Cambridge Guidance Clinic Board. She also served on the Metropolitan State Hospital’s Advisory Board. Described by those who knew her as very political, Ellen ran Alice Wolf’s successful races for Cambridge City Council and for her seat in the State Senate. In addition, she was actively engaged in the campaigns of Frank Duehay, three-time Cambridge mayor and former School Committee member, according to daughter Amey Moot.
In partnership with Benjamin Zander (current conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra), she created and then ran the Shady Hill Arts Summer Arts Program as well as the school’s ice hockey program.
According to her son Alex Moot, Ellen created the Guidance Center’s first gala fundraiser, called Cambridge Pops, and held in Memorial Hall at Harvard. The event sold out in its second year, and quickly became a permanent fixture on the Cambridge philanthropic scene. After many successful years, this event changed its name first to the Celebrating Families Gala, then to the Guidance Center Gala. She helped develop a live auction as part of its fundraising strategy, and moved it to the Charles Hotel.
Ellen also applied her energy, talent for organization and leadership, and devotion to community to Chocorua, New Hampshire, where she was a summer resident, and spent many years editing and writing the Chocorua Lake Association newsletter, raising funds for local conservation projects, running tennis tournaments and competing (successfully) in sailfish races.
Ellen’s husband, John, died in December, 2008. She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Alexander Moot and Nancy Roosa, of Medford; her daughter Amey Moot of Dover; two grandchildren, Kaly Moot and Ellis Moot; and her sister-in-law, Ann Armstrong Guild; of Cushing and Damariscotta, ME.
Cambridge Community Foundation was established in 1916, making it one of the oldest community foundations in the country. The only foundation with the whole city of Cambridge in its purview, it is a civic leader and a key supporter of nonprofit organizations, distributing $1.2 million in grants in 2015 to meet local needs and support the aspirations of Cambridge residents. The Foundation provides advocacy and leadership support to deal with urgent local challenges and partners with donors to provide a permanent source of charitable funds for the community.