Philanthropic duo Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg receive Harris award

Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg, passionate supporters of artistic, educational and cultural organizations throughout the St. Louis region, received the eighth annual Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award at a Feb. 20 ceremony at Harbison House.

Their prize, a $50,000 cash gift, will be distributed to six non-profit organizations of their choice. The award is the gift of the late Jane Freund Harris and Whitney Harris. In 1999, they established the award to be given to a husband and wife who are dedicated to improving the St. Louis community.

Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg accept the eighth annual Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award Feb. 20 at Harbison House while Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton looks on.
Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg accept the eighth annual Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award Feb. 20 at Harbison House while Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton looks on.

Of those six non-profits chosen by the Kranzbergs, four are associated with the University: Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book, Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and the Schusterman Visiting Professor in Israel Studies. The other two recipients, Places for People and The Sheldon Art Galleries, have received longtime support from the Kranzbergs.

At the award luncheon, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton noted the impact of the Kranzbergs’ widespread generosity, which is one of the criteria for the Harris award.

“Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg are being honored today for their exemplary leadership and contributions to the St. Louis community,” Wrighton said. “Over 500 civic, social, and arts organizations have benefited from their involvement and their philanthropy. Through their graciousness of spirit, dedicated service and generosity, they have built an important legacy of community involvement and collaboration which will have a lasting positive impact on St. Louis.”

In 1960, Ken Kranzberg joined Northwestern Bottle Co., the family business, at the time a distributor of glass bottles and closures.

Recognizing that the introduction of high-density plastics into the rigid-container industry was a great opportunity to expand, he and his father founded Kranson Industries in 1977. Today, the company has 28 branches throughout North America.

His business acumen is also apparent as a leader in many non-profit organizations. He serves or has served on the boards of such groups as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis, Center for International Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), the Anti-Defamation League, Dance St. Louis, Grand Center and the Missouri Historical Society. He is president of the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at UMSL.

A native of the metro area, Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg graduated from the University in 1966 with a degree in education in Arts & Sciences. A tireless advocate for supporting the St. Louis community, particularly its artistic, musical and other cultural resources, Nancy collaborates with organizations through her leadership activities.

She is a member of the board of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, Saint Louis Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Jazz at the Bistro and Missouri Mansion Preservation. She was the first president of the board for The Sheldon Art Galleries and continues to serve on its Arts Foundation board.

With her vast number of friends and colleagues in the arts scene and her expertise in all things cultural, Nancy never has trouble finding someone to interview for her weekly KDHX talk show, “Arts Interview.” She also is a regular commentator for the local NPR station, KWMU, and she sings in the band Nancy Kranzberg and the Second Half.

For her unwavering commitment and her significant contributions, Nancy frequently has been recognized. She is the recipient of the Woman of Achievement Award and the Mildred Dunn Lifetime Achievement Award from Places for People. In 2001, she received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

In addition to their individual work, the couple served as co-chairs for the Laumeier Sculpture Park board.

As a couple, they have received numerous awards for their philanthropic leadership, including the Arts Advocacy Award from Missouri Citizens for the Arts, a Missouri Arts Award from the Missouri Arts Council, a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis and the Pillars of the Community Award from Wesley House Association. Both also are featured in University City High School’s Hall of Fame.

Over the years, the Kranzbergs’ extraordinary support in time, energy and resources for the University has greatly enriched University Libraries and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, most notably by establishing the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book, a collaborative initiative between the libraries and the Sam Fox school, and the Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Arts & Architecture Library.

Nancy’s dedication to University Libraries began in 1987 as a co-chair of its Eliot Society Committee; she has been a member of its National Council since 1994.

In receiving the Harris award, the Kranzbergs join a list of prominent community supporters: Ruth and Alvin Siteman (2006), Mary Ann and E. Desmond Lee (2005), Marilyn and Sam Fox (2004), the late Elizabeth and William H. Danforth (2003), Ann and Lee Liberman (2002), Alice and the late Leigh Gerdine (2001), and Lucy and the late Stanley Lopata (2000).