PRESIDENT, ABELL FOUNDATION
Robert Embry may be best known for his work as the longtime president of the Abell Foundation, where he’s helped fight to improve the lives of Marylanders since 1987. But his work dates back to the mid-1960s.
After earning a law degree, Embry won a Baltimore City Council seat in 1967. A year later he moved behind the scenes as the first commissioner of the De-partment of Housing and Community Development for Baltimore. He worked for two mayors, Thomas D’Alesandro III and William Donald Schaefer, and is credited with being the key to many projects, including the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and the subway system.
He took his urban planning experience to President Jimmy Carter’s administration as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban De-velopment. He returned to Baltimore in 1981 as a partner with Cordish Embry & Associates.
He was named president of the Baltimore school board in 1985, resigning a year later to explore his political options.
“I always wanted to run for mayor, but I didn’t really want to be mayor,” Embry said in 2004. “It is a job that is too much in the public eye.”
Under Embry, the foundation has been fighting to improve city schools and solve chronic health and housing problems.
In 2013, when the foundation was honored for its philanthropic work, Embry quietly tried to deflect attention. “Really, I’m just the person who signs the checks. I’m giving away somebody else’s money.”