Noted philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger dies

Baltimore native aided many causes, had role in O's, Colts

1906 - 2000

September 16, 2000|By Jacques Kelly and Frederick Rasmussen | Jacques Kelly and Frederick Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Zanvyl Krieger, the soft-spoken Baltimore lawyer who took almost as much pleasure from sports as he did from his philanthropy, died yesterday of cancer at his Slade Avenue home. He was 94.

Mr. Krieger's gifts helped shape the Baltimore medical community, especially in children's medicine. But he also brought the Orioles to Baltimore and helped keep the Colts here in the early 1950s.

Without fanfare, he worked behind the scenes for most of his life for the city he loved.

"Zan Krieger was a Johns Hopkins for our time," said William R. Brody, president of the Johns Hopkins University. "[He was] a hard-working, very successful man with a vision for what philanthropy can accomplish. It will never be possible to calculate all the good he has done for Baltimore, but we are a far better city because of him."

Hopkins' Homewood campus is home to the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute.

Mr. Krieger was also a benefactor and 34-year trustee of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, at Broadway and Monument Street in East Baltimore, which treats children with disorders of the brain.

"He's a philanthropist in that grand Baltimore tradition of Enoch Pratt, Johns Hopkins, Henry and William Walters and Moses Sheppard, not to mention more modern givers like the Abells, Meyerhoffs and Knotts," The Sun said in 1996.

"His presence and impact on the community was very positive and he is probably Maryland's foremost philanthropist," said Peter G. Angelos, Baltimore lawyer and Orioles owner. "And his death is a great loss not only to the city but to the state and country as well."

A major benefactor of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Mr. Krieger provided $1.5 million for construction of the agency's Mount Royal Avenue headquarters. He also donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in East Baltimore, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Krieger Schechter Day School in Pikesville and the American Visionary Art Museum.

"He was a smart businessman who gave an awful lot of money to good causes. Anytime you needed money for something, you went to Zanvyl," said State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

"He only turned me down once, and that was because his stocks went down," the former governor and Baltimore mayor continued. "He wasn't one who lauded the fact that he had lots of money. He always made you feel as though you were talking to a friend and not some corporate magnate."

Civic leader Walter Sondheim said, "He gave to things he looked at carefully and thought were of substantial community value. His philanthropy was an expression of real concern."

Rebecca Hoffberger, founder of the Visionary Art Museum, said, "He had a great intuitive sense of what could work and deserved to be backed. What impressed me about Zan was that he stayed young and his interest in fresh ideas helped keep him young. He rolled up his sleeves and got involved with so much."

In 1978, Mr. Krieger created the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, a foundation affiliated with The Associated.

Mr. Krieger also provided the money to establish the Sinai Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai Hospital and the Krieger Children's Eye Center at the Wilmer Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Many of his medical donations were tied to his interest in childhood diseases related to neurology and the brain.

"He was a visionary," said Calman "Buddy" J. Zamoiski Jr., a friend and board chairman of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "One day at the symphony, he said to me, `You don't have an adequate endowment for the future.' And on the spot he put the money up as a challenge to other donors."

Mr. Krieger was remembered for personal loyalty and his calming, empathetic manner of speech that accompanied a brilliant legal mind. He resided in modest homes, drove his own car and pumped his own gas.

"No matter how busy he was, he always had the time for you," said Clarisse B. Mechanic, a friend and owner of the Morris Mechanic Theater in Charles Center. "He was a quiet, warm and compassionate man who put people first."

Mr. Krieger was born in South Baltimore at the corner of Charles and Lee streets, about five blocks east of today's Oriole Park. His family owned the Gunther Brewery on Dillon Street in Canton and distilled Maryland rye whiskey - Old Discovery, Sherbrook and Baltimore Pure Rye. It was the largest distillery in the country at one time.

As a grade-school student, he filled jugs with spring water from Druid Hill Park, carted them in a wagon and sold them to a list of clients.

The entry in his 1924 City College yearbook proved prophetic - "our little wizard of finance," it read.

He received his undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1928 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1931.

He joined the law firm of Weinberg and Sweeten in the early 1930s and retired in the 1990s from what had become Weinberg & Green. Sports memorabilia filled his office, reminders of his parallel career in sports.

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