July 20, 2017
It is with great sadness that we share with you the loss of Drucilla (Drue) Cortell Gensler, Art Gensler’s wife of nearly 60 years and a co-founder of the firm. Drue is an integral part of Gensler’s legacy, and her influence and inspiration will be felt forever throughout the firm.
The only child of Robert and Marie Cortell, Drue was born in New York City in 1936. She did her early education at Barnard School for Girls and her university studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, where she met Art. The couple married in 1957, and moved from New York to San Francisco in 1962. In 1965, Art and Drue co-founded M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc. with James Follett.
Drue served as a role model to many, and, according to Art, always encouraged him to hire the best talent. A pioneering businesswoman and entrepreneur, Drue mentored other women in the firm and encouraged them to take on leadership roles. A former member of the Gensler Board of Directors, Drue’s larger-than-life personality and generosity permeate the firm’s culture and spur our enduring commitment to the human spirit.
Drue was active in the early women’s movement and was the co-founder and a board member of The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women, which offers Afghani women an opportunity to achieve undergraduate degrees in the U.S. and return home with new tools to contribute to their communities. Drue was passionate about the arts, education and philanthropy. She served as a member of the Middlebury College of Board of Trustees and Marin Theatre Company, and was active in the United Way of the Bay Area and Marin County, Buck Center for Research on Aging and the YWCA of San Francisco and Marin.
Drue was also a driving force behind the creation of the May Belle Chellis Women’s Resource Center and the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Middlebury College. The school called Drue “a lifelong champion for the rights of women” and “an ardent feminist and businesswoman, and a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and role model to all.”
Drue’s most important legacy is her and Art’s family — sons David, Robert, Ken and Doug, and their 10 children. She was an avid traveler, and her passion for life was infectious. Drue’s sense of humor and fun was magnetic.
As a firm, our thoughts are with Art and the Gensler family. In many ways, Drue was the foundation of our organization’s culture and values, and her presence will always be with us.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Institute for the Education of Afghan Women (ieaw.org or PO Box 603188, Providence, RI 02906), or the Middlebury College Women's Center at Chellis House. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.