Philanthropic duo Nancy and Ken Kranzberg receive 2007 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 Saint Louis Community Service Award at a ceremony at the Harbison House on Feb. 20.

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.

Of those six, four are associated with Washington 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 long-time support from the Kranzbergs.

At the Harris Award luncheon, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton noted the impact of the Kranzberg’s 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. 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,” Wrighton said.

In 1960, Ken Kranzberg joined Northwestern Bottle, 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 on 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, the 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 currently serves as president of the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at UMSL.

A native of the metro area, Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg graduated from Washington University’s Arts & Sciences in 1966 with a degree in education. 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, 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 talk show, “Arts Interview” on KDHX-FM. She is also a regular commentator for the local NPR station, KWMU, and she sings in a band called “Nancy Kranzberg and the Second Half.”

For her unwavering commitment and her significant contributions, Nancy has been frequently 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 Washington University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

In addition to all their individual work, the couple has 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 Kranzberg’s extraordinary support of time, energy and resources for Washington University has greatly enriched the University Libraries and the Sam Fox School, 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 the University Libraries began in 1987 as a co-chair of its Eliot Society Committee, and as a member of its National Council since 1994.

As the most recent recipients of the Harris Community 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 Danforth (2003), Ann and Lee Liberman (2002), Alice and the late Leigh Gerdine (2001), and Lucy and the late Stanley Lopata (2000).