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Susan CostaSusan Costa

 Susan Costa, a longtime non-profit leader and former Athena Award nominee, believed in joining others to change the world for the better. Those who knew Mrs. Costa said she did just that.

“Sue was passionate, energetic and driven by the desire to serve, especially people who were underserved,” said Richard Briggs, director of operations planning and development at Westfall Associates. “Words alone will never fully characterize her impact, either at a personal level or from a community perspective. Greater Rochester is a better place for having had Sue Costa as a force in our community.”

Mrs. Costa, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, died Sunday evening at her home in Brighton. She was 59. She is survived by her husband, Juan Navarrete, and children, Michael and Alicia.

She joined the former Health Association Inc. in 1980 as assistant executive director and served as its executive director from 1984 to 2002. Mrs. Costa led the non-profit during a period of rapid expansion in which the agency grew from an annual budget of $4 million to more than $16 million.

Briggs worked with Mrs. Costa at the agency and succeeded her there. He described her as “a great champion of diversity and the developing of cultural competence in the Health Association and community.

“We who worked with her were all made better people and professionals by following her ideals and her vision,” Briggs said.

A longtime community activist and former Lewis Street Center group worker, Mrs. Costa’s professional and community leadership included serving as: founder and past officer, Alternatives for Battered Women Inc.; board member, Boys and Girls Clubs; past vice president and member, Rochester Rotary Club; founder and faculty member, Hispanic Leadership Development Program, United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.; and member, Rochester Resource Alliance Youth Council.

She was also active with the Latino Political Campaign Academy and was involved with many local Democratic campaigns.

She was nominated for an Athena Award in 2002. During the award process, Mrs. Costa said her parents and extended family served as role models due to their principles of being responsible, hardworking and committed to their goals.

After retirement, she worked part time as the executive director of the Rochester Engineering Society Inc.

 susan=Susan Costa at a local conference (provided by L. Norwood).

Lisa Norwood, assistant dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Rochester and first vice president of the Rochester Engineering Society, met Mrs. Costa when she became the agency’s executive director and the two became friends.

Mrs. Costa served as Norwood’s rotary sponsor and would introduce her to numerous people and make sure she had someone to sit with at the meetings.

“She knew everyone and if she didn’t know you, she wasn’t afraid to go up and talk to you,” Norwood said, adding that she was equally unafraid of asking for what she wanted. “She had the community at heart in all she did.”

Andre Godfrey, president and CEO of Entre Computer Services Inc., became friendly with Mrs. Costa through the Rotary Club.

“Sue moved with purpose and led her life with a focus for what was right,” Godfrey said. “She was a force in the community and we were better for having her here.”                            


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