Born Gladys Vivian Craven in 1939 in Omaha, Neb., Fernandez chose Philadelphia as her home. She was a professor at Temple University's School of Social Administration and active in her union. But that wasn't enough.
Fernandez chaired Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal, good-government wing of the city's entrenched Democratic Party that often fought the old guard for a more transparent and ethical city government.
She was a founder of the Children's Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Parents Union for Public Schools, which laid the groundwork for a network of after-school programs for Philadelphia's children.
Fernandez lost her first bid for Council in 1987, but she came back strong in 1991 after making the pragmatic choice of hiring former state Sen. Henry "Buddy" Cianfrani as her campaign consultant. The move stunned some of her liberal followers who viewed Cianfrani as a cog in a corrupt political machine. But it worked.
During her two terms on City Council, Fernandez was "focused, policy-driven, and she kept her word. She always acted with grace, a smile, and kindness," said Mayor Nutter, who served with her on Council.
Fernandez took a big political leap in 1999 and ran for mayor. Though that race may have effectively ended her political career, it didn't lessen her drive to improve the city. Fernandez took the helm of Moore College of Art and Design and served until May 2011. Her mark will be felt by students to come thanks to her drive to expand the college and raise funds to ensure its future.
Fernandez's suvivors include her husband, the Rev. Richard Fernandez, former head of the Northwest Interfaith Movement, a progressive civic group, and three sons. Philadelphia is better for having benefited from her unwavering activism and devotion.