N. Shore native is jilted wife in gov scandal

S.C. first lady is from wealthy Winnetka family
June 24, 2009 Sullivan was born on Sept. 11, 1962, the second of five children. The family members were devout Irish-Catholics.

Now, as the spurned spouse of high-profile Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) she is turning the other cheek.

"I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance."

It wasn't just a pious family she was born into, it was well heeled. Her grandfather and great-grandfather founded the Skil Corp., which became a household name, literally, as the maker of the first portable electric saw. Her father, John W. Sullivan, was chairman of The Reading Co. railroad of Philadelphia and was president of the Skil Co. from 1964-'79.

Winnetka was "a great place to grow up because it was very Midwestern in its values," Sanford recently told a South Carolina newspaper. "The Midwestern values are very -- they're very earnest and hard-working and honest, very down to earth, much like South Carolina."

After graduating from the Woodlands Academy, she attended Georgetown University and worked briefly for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, then led by U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the Illinois Democrat who later resigned and served prison time stemming from a congressional scandal.

With a degree in finance from Georgetown, she was hired as an investment banker in the mergers and acquisitions department at Lazard Freres & Co. in New York City. Mark Sanford was working in New York that summer of '87 while attending business school.

The Winnetka native and a friend were spending a long weekend at a friend's house on Long Island. Because they'd taken a train from the city, they needed a ride to a party.

Sanford would be that ride.

As the story goes, it was a case of opposites attract. Sanford said many times during his campaigns that in the "big, big picture, in terms of core values and what we think is important in life and what has meaning in life, we completely think from the same page."

On Nov. 4, 1989 they married, and she became Jenny Sanford. Although she would become much more in his life - the driving force behind his campaigns - when they moved to Charleston at the end of 1990, she said she had no idea that politics was even in their future.

"It was quite a surprise to me. When he told me, I was in the hospital, and we had just delivered our second son. So we had a 15-month-old and a newborn, and he says to me, 'I'm going to run for Congress,'" she is quoted as saying in articles about their life story.

And so, beginning in 1994, Mrs. Sanford successfully managed three congressional races and his gubernatorial campaign in 2002 and his re-election in 2006. All the while she also managed their household, including four sons: Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake.

She has helped to manage family members' battles with cancer and has been an advocate for cancer research funding. Last summer she had to manage her own skin cancer under her right eye. Doctors removed it and replaced it with skin from her ear.

Now, she is having to manage something else. Something unexpected, until she learned of it a few months ago. Her husband's affair that has now become very public.

On Wednesday night in a statement, Jenny Sanford said she asked her husband leave home and stop talking to her two weeks before he publicly admitted an affair with an old family friend. Mrs. Sanford said that she needed a trial separation from her husband of nearly 20 years to preserve her own sense of dignity.

The scandal became public Wednesday when Sanford admitted that he had made a secret trip to Argentina to see the woman. He described the woman as an eight-year family friend. The governor's staff said he was hiking in Appalachia while he was actually out of the country.

Mark Sanford said Wednesday he has ended the year-long affair and is seeking his wife's forgiveness and wants to reconcile.

This bio brief on Jenny Sanford was posted in the Charleston, South Carolina Post Courier Charleston in January, 2003:


BORN: Sept. 11, 1962, Winnetka, Ill., where she also grew up as the second of five children.

EDUCATION: Graduated Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, Ill., 1980; graduated magna cum laude Georgetown University with bachelor's degree in finance, 1984.

FAMILY: Husband, Mark Sanford; four sons, Marshall, Landon, Bolton, and Blake.

CAREER: Former vice president in mergers and acquisitions, with a focus on media and communications companies, at Lazard Freres & Co., a New York investment banking firm where she worked for seven years. She was manager of her husband's first campaign for a successful run for the House of Representatives in 1994; managed her husband's campaign for governor.

VOLUNTEER WORK: Board member of The Community Foundation Serving Coastal South Carolina, board member of Charleston Day School and member of the MUSC Children's Hospital Advisory Fund. She has helped to form a family company, Birchtrees LLC, which has a long-term goal of raising funds for cancer prevention.

HER IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS: An afternoon on the beach on Sullivan's Island with my family and friends, a great book, a slight breeze and a picnic supper.

HISTORICAL FIGURE SHE MOST ADMIRES: Mother Teresa for her incredible strength of purpose and for her ability to exude warmth and love. LIVING PERSON SHE MOST ADMIRES: My mother, Susan Sullivan, who has struggled with cancer for 25 years and is always positive, not only about herself and her health, but about anything she puts her mind to.

GREATEST REGRET: That I was unable to meet Mark's father.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: My four terrific sons.

WHAT DO YOU MOST DISLIKE ABOUT SOCIETY: Too many in our society are inclined to blame someone else for their problems, to point fingers and to shirk responsibility for their own actions and for the situations they find themselves in.

IF I COULD CHANGE SOMETHING ABOUT MYSELF: I would like to be a more patient person.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER RUNNING FOR OFFICE: No. I'm strictly a behind-the-scenes person. When my children are gone, I will probably go back to crunching numbers again. It's what I like to do.


HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: I would like to be remembered as a good person who raised great children and grandchildren and who made a difference, in some small way, in her community.

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.