Saturday, December 26, 2009
Ambassador to Luxembourg: Who is Cynthia Stroum?
The American ambassadorship to Luxembourg has long been reserved as a post for rewarding political friends and benefactors of presidents. In the last 50 years, only three out of 21 U.S.
ambassadors to the tiny European country have been career diplomats. Cynthia Stroum, who was sworn in as Ambassador to Luxembourg December 7, 2009, is not one of them.
One of President Barack Obama’s biggest fundraisers, Stroum hails from a prominent Jewish family in Seattle whose patriarch was her father, Sam Stroum, a wealthy businessman (one-time owner of Schuck’s Auto Supply) and philanthropist (described as the “godfather of Seattle giving”). During the 1990s alone, her father and mother, Althea, reportedly gave $40 million to arts, educational, medical, human services and religious organizations, including the establishment of a $9 million foundation through the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and a generous gift to help build Benaroya Hall, the home of Seattle’s symphony. Sam Stroum was also credited for helping save the Seattle symphony from going bankrupt.
Cynthia Stroum earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and journalism from the University of Southern California. Her professional career has included working in the television and film industries, although she is best known for helping run her family’s holding company, Sam Stroum Enterprises.
Stroum has been an angel investor in more than 20 technology, biotechnology and retail start-up companies, including Starbucks Coffee Company. She also has been active on Broadway, helping produce the 2004 production of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her a Tony nomination.
She has served on the board of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and as the founding chairman of the board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). She has also served on the board of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.
Stroum served on President Obama’s finance committee during the presidential campaign. She was one of his key bundlers, pulling in at least $500,000 from numerous individual donors, according to OpenSecrets.org. She personally donated $10,000 to Obama’s presidential inauguration.
Stroum has been a major donor to Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both of Washington, contributing $10,000 to each. Cantwell gave Stroum a “Woman of Valor” award at a private fundraising luncheon. Stroum has made four-figure donations to Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), as well as to former Senator John Edwards (D-NC).
Stroum is a single mother with one daughter.
Stroum is credited with getting President Obama hooked on Fran’s Chocolates smoked salt caramels in milk chocolate.