By Isaiah Negron
Elaine Sargent isn’t easily pegged into a single category. She has spent the better part of her life shattering notions of what society-at-large expects from her as a woman on Wall Street, a wife, mother, philathropist and now a grandmother. Whether it’s her work for Republicans for Choice or supporting medical research programs at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and John Hopkins University, Sargent has always answered, first and foremost, to her own voice of integrity.
Born in Montreal, she married Irwin Leopold with whom she built a successful real estate business in Canada. Together they bought Ruby Foo’s, a restaurant that seated 1,300 and became an instant hit in Montreal. Sargent also developed Ruby Foo’s motor hotel that had an underground tunnel connected to the restaurant, which she designed with architect Max Roth. After a time, she opened a boutique in the hotel, which featured Gloria Vanderbilt’s glasswear and other unique collectibles.
Not long after, Sargent moved to New York and got her stockbrokers license, entering the male-dominated world of Wall Street while simultaneously raising two sons. She met Daniel I. Sargent, a manager and partner at Saloman Brothers, and they married. Sargent continued to grow her client roster, becoming a respected broker and maintaining a vibrant career with top investment firms like L.F. Rothschild. “It was not easy. I worked 18-hour days and was also raising a family while managing four households at the same time,” she remembers. “But I had perseverance and a feeling that I was going to prove to Wall Street that a woman is capable of being as competent as any man.” Her hard work and persistence carried her through more than four decades on Wall Street, but it was her eye for trends in the market that really set her apart.
When Sargent wasn’t busy breaking down barriers on Wall Street or buying and selling real estate, she began investing in her love of the theatre, which fulfilled the artistic side of her personality . Sargent has proved to be a steadfast patron of the arts including the Metroplotian Opera, the Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center and the New York Theatre Workshop. “I often go to the same show two or three times,” says Sargent “I love how the plays change in the time between the previews and the opening night. Performances on stage are spontaneous and there are mistakes. It’s very human in that way, and it’s the human element that I like.”
Although Sargent still runs her own money, she has left Wall Street behind and is devoted to her philanthropic passions, actively supporting organizations like the American Cancer Society and the ASPCA. She continues to stand up for the issues that are important to her including marriage equality and the right for same sex couples to adopt . Sargent says,“The things that have carried me through are things I picked up from my time on Wall Street: determination, followthrough and thoroughness.”