Kranzbergs to provide key support for artistic, cultural initiatives at Washington University

$2 million gift to benefit programs within the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, University Libraries

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg
Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

Citing their wish to expand arts and education opportunities, leading local arts patrons Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg have expressed their intention to make a $2 million gift to Washington University in St. Louis.

“Nancy and Ken Kranzberg are devoted to creating and promoting a vibrant cultural scene in St. Louis, and they have shown the same great spirit of generosity and commitment to strengthen artistic and cultural learning opportunities for Washington University students,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.

The gift will support initiatives for the University Libraries and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, including:

  • $950,000 for the Modern Graphic History Library in the University Libraries, which will be named in honor of Douglas Dowd, professor of communication design in the Sam Fox School and of American culture studies in Arts & Sciences;
  • $800,000 for the construction of Anabeth and John Weil Hall at the Sam Fox School;
  • $200,000 for the Ken and Nancy Kranzberg Fund in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, in honor of Sabine Eckmann, the William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator; and
  • $50,000 for the Gaylord Music Library, part of the university library system, in honor of Dolores Pesce, the Avis Blewett Professor of Music in Arts & Sciences.

The Kranzbergs’ past generosity has been primarily directed toward support for library and art-related initiatives. Prior gifts from the couple have supported the Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, located on the lower level of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum; and the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book, located on the top floor of Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall.

“The Libraries are extremely fortunate to have the support of Ken and Nancy Kranzberg,” said University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak. “It is through their generosity that our libraries, and indeed our faculty and students, are able to excel. Their boundless energy for and devotion to St. Louis are an inspiration. They are what makes our region and its institutions world class.”

Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts, echoed Trzeciak’s sentiment. “We could not ask for better champions of the arts and of our school than Ken and Nancy,” Colangelo said.

“Through their amazing gift, the collaborative and innovative spaces being planned for the new Weil Hall will provide a stronger connection to the resources of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, and the Modern Graphic History Library,” he said. “We are so grateful for their outstanding support of our mission of teaching, research and service.”

The Kranzbergs’ financial generosity to Washington University is matched by their contributions in volunteer leadership roles.

Nancy found her appreciation for the wonders of Olin Library as an undergraduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in education in Arts & Sciences in 1966. She has served on the Libraries’ National Council since its inception more than 20 years ago, and her leadership helped establish the William Greenleaf Eliot Society for the Libraries. For her exemplary service Nancy received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001.

A recognized expert on the local arts and culture scene, Nancy has for 15 years hosted a weekly program on radio station KDHX-FM; she also provides commentary for St. Louis Public Radio.

While Nancy appreciates listening to music, she also enjoys creating it, and sings in her own band, called “Nancy Kranzberg and the Second Half.”

Ken, a graduate of the College of William and Mary, serves on the Sam Fox School National Council. He helped usher in the recent revitalization of the Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District, and, with Nancy, established the Kranzberg Arts Center (KAC) and the Marcelle Theatre. The KAC presents a mix of innovative theatrical and musical events, and hosts exhibits; the Marcelle Theatre, named for Ken’s mother and two of their granddaughters, is the new venue for the musical theatre group, New Line Theatre.

Ken has spent his career in the packaging industry, first joining the business in 1960. He is chairman and past president of TricorBraun, one of the largest distributors of glass and plastic packaging in the world. From 1987-1996, he served as vice-chair of the Missouri Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority.

Washington University is one of dozens of civic, social, educational and arts institutions and organizations that have benefited from the Kranzbergs’ philanthropy, and they have been recognized widely for their contributions, among them: the 2007 Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award, and in 2008 and 2009, the University of Missouri­—St. Louis’ Distinguished Service Award, and the Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree, respectively. Most recently, the Kranzbergs received the Arts and Education Council’s St. Louis Arts Award for Excellence in Philanthropy.

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