Year Awarded: 
2017

     Kansas City, Missouri needs more people like Anita Gorman. Mrs. Gorman has worked to improve the community’s quality of life for more than 50 years. Her leadership in, and work with, many groups and organizations has helped Kansas City blossom, particularly in the areas of parks, recreation, and conservation. She is a person who can lead and also work behind the scenes to persuade movers and shakers to provide needed support and action to strengthen the park and boulevard system and important public recreational activities. Her love of nature has led her to pursue activities that relate to the importance of the outdoors to people.

     Early in the 1960s, Mrs. Gorman joined the fight to prevent commercial development of an open space near her home, an area that eventually became part of Kansas City’s park system and is today known as “Anita Gorman Park.” The first fountain in Kansas City north of the Missouri River was built in this park, and she helped to raise funds for it as well.  

     Also in the 1960s, Mrs. Gorman helped lead a fight to save an Indian archaeological site that was threatened by the placement of a sewer and sewage lagoon. She and others brought the importance of the historical significance to the Kansas City Park Department’s attention, and that property became part of Kansas City’s park system.

     Mrs. Gorman was the first woman appointed to the Kansas City Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners, from 1979 to 1991, serving as President from 1986 to 1991. Many things were accomplished during her tenure. During her time on the Park and Recreation Board, bonds were passed to support and expand the Kansas City Zoo, property was acquired for additional parks and boulevards, and restorative work was completed on sculptures and monuments owned by Kansas City Parks and Recreation. 

     Even though no longer a Park and Recreation Board Commissioner, Mrs. Gorman has continued her work on behalf of Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation projects. In 2012, she was a strong supporter of a successful sales tax increase that was part of Mayor Sly James’ effort to better fund the parks and recreational activities for many years to come. It provides a net increase of about $3 million over current funding for parks and for community centers.

     She was involved in the fund-raising for, and the successful promotion of, the passage of a temporary sales tax for the improvements and expansion of the Liberty Memorial, now the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial. It is recognized by the United States Congress as the nation’s official World War I museum and has received National Historic Landmark status.

     Mrs. Gorman is a longtime supporter of Starlight Theater, an outdoor theater located in Swope Park. She has co-chaired multiple fund-raising campaigns, raising millions of dollars to make improvements to Starlight. In 2007, the Anita B. Gorman Court of Honor was dedicated to honor Mrs. Gorman for her service and support to this wonderful and popular venue.

     Nature and conservation are also important in her life. She served on the Missouri Conservation Commission from 1993 to 2005 and became the first woman to chair the commission in 1996. Some of the accomplishments during her tenure were the purchase of more than 4,000 acres in the St. Louis area for fish, wildlife, forestry, and conservation; she also helped found the not-for-profit Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation that provides financial support for conservation projects. The culmination of her service and vision for conservation education was the naming of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discovery Center in Kansas City as the Anita Gorman Discovery Center.  

     Mrs. Gorman has been a member of the City of Fountains Foundation since its beginnings in 1973. The Foundation works in partnership with the Park and Recreation Department to operate and maintain Kansas City’s 48 publicly-owned fountains. The Foundation’s goal is to raise funds to construct new fountains in Kansas City, the “City of Fountains,” manage trust funds to cover maintenance of fountains, and increase awareness of the importance of Kansas City’s fountains. Presently, the Foundation’s Fundraising Committee, led by Mrs. Gorman, is focusing on eight particular fountains with the goal of raising millions of dollars to help with renovations and maintenance.  

     Mrs. Gorman also served on the Citizens Association of Kansas City’s Board of Governors and was elected its first female chair in 1977. She worked for the establishment of the Kansas City International Airport and was on the commission for its dedication in 1972. She has served on many civic boards and committees including the Salvation Army; City Union Mission; Starlight Theatre; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, Missouri; Conservation of Heritage Foundation; Fine Arts Council; Full Employment Council; William Jewell College Trustee; Director of Commerce Bank; Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City; Citizens Association of Kansas City; Trustee of the National Recreation and Park Association; Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts; Visiting Nurse Association and the Liberty Memorial Association.

     On November 19, 2014, National Philanthropy Day, Mrs. Gorman was recognized as the “2014 Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer” by the Mid-America Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

     Mrs. Anita Gorman was inducted into the Missouri Parks and Recreation Hall of Fame in 2015. She also received the following Major Honors: Volunteer of the Year Award (2009), Jay B. Dillingham Leadership Award for Northland Neighborhood Association (2008); City Union Mission Award, Women Who’ve Changed the Heart of the City (2008); Fellowship of Concerned, Joe Wally Community Service Award (2008); Starlight Theatre Court of Honor Award (2007); The National Chevron-Texaco Conservation Award (2002); Mid-America Regional Council Regional Leadership Award (2002); First Woman Award of Kansas City (2000); Unico Citizen of the Year Award (1999); KCI/Northland Regional Chamber Leadership Award (1996); MPRA Citation, Outstanding State Park Commissioner (1989); Outstanding Citizen of Kansas City, Missouri, Communications Matrix Award (1981) and Missouri Municipal League Outstanding Citizen of Kansas City, Missouri (1983). The Clay County Commission named a portion of Smithville Lake, the Anita B. Gorman Hiking Trail and Prairie Restoration (2007).

     Other major civic contributions include the following: Led efforts to acquire land and construct Parma Woods Shooting Range (2001); Instigated the establishment of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (1998); and Chaired the final efforts of the Conservation Department to acquire the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area by the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi, to name a few.

     Anita Gorman was very instrumental in working with the mayor and other city leaders on the successful April 5, 2016 vote to renew the Kansas City Earnings Tax, even with a $2 million ad campaign against it. Mrs. Gorman became one of the Honorary Leaders for “Making A Museum KC” which is an innovative fund-raising initiative and capital campaign to increase awareness, raise private funding, and build community support for the Kansas City Museum.  

     Throughout her life of work on Kansas City’s behalf, Mrs. Gorman had the support of her late husband, Gerald, and her children and grandchildren. No matter how extensive her activities, her passion remains steadfast for Kansas City, and she encourages the next generations to step up and work on its behalf, leaving the city a better place for all to enjoy. [September 2017]