Sheri Goldhirsch, who rose from an intern to help lead the Young Playwrights Inc., which has nurtured and developed playwrights ages 18 and under, has died, according to the group. She was 55.

Goldhirsch died Tuesday at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said Brett W. Reynolds, interim director of the Young Playwrights. No cause of death was announced.

Young Playwrights was founded by composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in 1981 and is now led by award-winning writer David Henry Hwang. Goldhirsch, who joined in 1982, was artistic director since 1993 and had worked for the group for 34 years.

"Sheri devoted her entire career to encouraging young people to find their creative roots and let them grow. Our loss is their loss, and it is a mighty one," Sondheim wrote in a statement.

The Pace University graduate read thousands of plays submitted to the group as part of its annual competition and was known for her personal notes to playwrights.

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Young Playwrights said Goldhirsch helped raise more than $10 million over 20 years to keep the group going; launched an advanced playwriting workshop; and produced more than 15 Off-Broadway productions of the Young Playwrights Festival at venues including the New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, the Lucille Lortel Theatre and the Cherry Lane Theatre.

She also produced a Broadway concert revue celebrating Sondheim's 75th birthday featuring artists including Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Lansbury, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Hathaway, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.