BEACH PARK ISLES
“How many hours do you have?" asked Franci Golman Rudolph. She is sitting at her kitchen table, clearly preferring the limelight to be on her philanthropic works rather than herself. She tells a story of a stuttering child who gained the confidence to speak through a scholarship to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Her passion is evident.
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Then there's the stroke team at St. Joseph's Hospital, working with new technology that can bust a clot and reverse stroke damage.
Rudolph, 58, plays her part in these efforts and many more, serving on boards at local hospitals, museums, art programs and schools.
"We say so much more by what we do than by what we say," Rudolph said.
She likes quotes. She recites one by Robert Frost.
The world is filled with willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.
Rudolph is the type to roll up her sleeves and do the work.
"Who in this community and beyond has she not touched?" asked her sister, Gail Golman Holtzman.
Rudolph grew up in Chicago and first became a philanthropist when she was 14. She joined an organization that worked with developmentally challenged children. Many of the children were bigger than her. She was undaunted.
Then, while a student at Syracuse University with a triple major in special education, elementary education and psychology, she helped found a halfway house. After graduating, she taught special needs children, until having her own children.
When her children were in school, she immersed herself in Tampa organizations.
"If there was a need, she just spearheaded it and took charge of the fundraising efforts," said her sister.
So, this past spring when a group from the American Jewish Committee asked her to lunch, she figured they wanted her help.
They told her about the Human Relations Award, given nationally and locally, that they wanted to present. This, they told her, was the first year it would be given in Tampa. They showed her a long list of past national recipients including Jimmy Carter, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood.
Rudolph had several people in mind to suggest, but the group told her they had already made their decision: her.
The committee had investigated people in the Tampa area and chose Rudolph based on the lives she has touched through her work. "There was no question in our minds," said Brian Lipton, director of West Coast Florida Chapter. "She is a true humanitarian."
They organized a dinner to honor Rudolph that was scheduled to take place Thursday at the A La Carte Event Pavilion, after City Times went to press.
Rudolph was shocked and humbled by the honor, she said. She decided to accept the award only after considering how it might further promote her adopted causes.