Ann Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Fairfax County and a longtime arts and civic leader in northern Virginia, died of cancer Oct. 28 at her home in Reston. She was 66.
Rodriguez, who was well-known and well-regarded in the business community, also championed arts initiatives across the county.
"I don't remember not knowing Ann," said Sharon Bulova, a longtime member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and now chairwoman of the board. "She has just been a real rock in the community."
Rodriguez assumed leadership of the Arts Council which supports arts-related activities through programs, grants and advocacy and produces the annual International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in 2004. During her tenure, the council played a key role with the Fairfax County Arts Committee in developing the Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the Arts.
Before joining the council, Rodriguez was CEO of Corporate Products in Reston, which marketed promotional advertising products to local and national companies. She founded the company in 1988 and sold it in 2003. She then mentored entrepreneurs seeking to accomplish what she had.
Her friend Marion Myers, president of Myers Public Relations in Reston, noted that Rodriguez was wonderful to young women launching businesses.
"She was extremely helpful to me when I started my business," Ann Myers said. The two met for lunch, she said, and Rodriguez told her, "OK, you need business cards, a fax machine, a business plan. I'll call you in two weeks to see how you're doing." And she did.
Rodriguez was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., raised in Huntington, W.Va., and graduated from Marshall University. She had been an on-air radio and television personality in Huntington and a television producer in Norfolk. She was a former trustee of public television station WETA and hosted two local cable shows, "Health Focus" and "Business Focus." She lived in Reston for 34 years.
In the 1980s, Rodriguez's ties to the town and to area businesses led her to join other business leaders in forming the Reston Board of Commerce, later to become the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. She served as chairman of the board in 1995-1996 and was involved in its activities for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, she was engaged in other aspects of Reston life. She was vice chairman of the Greater Reston Arts Center board of directors and served as interim executive director in 2002. During that time, her interest in the arts flowered.
"A real turning point for her was when she served as interim director of GRACE," said her son, Paco Rodriguez, an artist and chef.
Paco Rodriguez described how he and his mother matured in the arts together.
"When I became interested in the visual arts during high school, she was active in the business community," he said. When he decided to enroll in art school, his mother decided to get involved in the arts on a professional level.
"We had some interesting dialogues, with me as a maker and she as an advocate," he said.
Ann Rodriguez was a maker in her own right. For 25 years, she met weekly with a group of women making hand-painted porcelain.
"It was a great love of hers," Paco Rodriguez said. "It's something not many people know about her."
Her dual interests were what fueled her greatest contributions, Paco Rodriguez believes. "I think her legacy in a larger sense is in bringing the business community to the table, to raise the profile for the arts," he said.
In 2002, Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber honored her with the Best of Reston award for her community service.
At the time of her death, Ann Rodriguez was serving as a commissioner overseeing the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. She also was director of Virginians for the Arts and was involved with the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington and the Lorton Arts Foundation. She volunteered with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, to which her family said she was passionately committed.
"She handled her illness and treatment with such strength and such grace," while keeping up with her community activities, Bulova said. "Most people didn't realize she was so ill."
In addition to her son, survivors include her sister, Phyllis Madachy of Columbia, Md.; and her brother, David Bauer of Washington, D.C.
A public memorial will be held Dec. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road. Donations may be sent to the Arts Council of Fairfax County, 4022 Hummer Road, Annandale, VA 22003.
Staff Writer Kali Schumitz contributed to this report.