Kupferberg leaves legacy to the arts

The late Selma Kupferberg and her husband, Max. The Kupferbergs were benefactors of the visual and performing arts at Queens College. Photo courtesy Queens College
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Bayside philanthropist Selma Kupferberg, a longtime supporter of the performing arts and a major benefactor of Queens College, died last month at the age of 86.

Selma Share was born in November 1926 to a family of modest means and married Queens College alumnus Max Kupferberg in 1946.

After World War II, the Kupferberg family founded the Kepco company, a successful engineering firm based in Flushing, and through their foundations the Kupferbergs became one of the borough’s most visible philanthropist families.

A $10 million gift enabled Queens College to establish the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in 2006.

“We knew she was failing in recent months, and when we heard she had passed, it was a big hole,” said Queens College President James Muyskens. “It was always so wonderful when an event was going on in our auditorium, Max and Selma could always be seen there. It wasn’t really right if they both weren’t there. Knowing that her seat is vacant, it’s a real sense of loss.”

She lived with her husband in Bayside until her death Jan. 4.

The Kupferberg’s gift allowed for major renovations to the Colden Auditorium, LeFrak Concert Hall, Goldstein Theatre and Godwin-Ternbach Museum, which Muyskens said are not only an asset to the college’s students, but to all Queens residents.

“Several years ago when I came here, we talked with Max and Selma about how they might help Queens College. They were very eager to promote the arts here,” Muyskens said. “Max told me one time, and this applies to Selma as well, he said he came to Queens College and had a first-rate education. He said science gave him his livelihood, but what really enriched his life and Selma’s life was an appreciation and understanding of the arts.”

“Selma had that same conviction that the arts can make a real difference and turn a life that’s a hum-drum routine into one that’s rich and inspiring,” he said.

Selma’s dedication to the arts began at an early age, when her mother scrimped and saved to take her to Radio City Music Hall.

Later in life, she would schedule regular family trips with her son Saul and daughter Rhoda Kupferberg-Joss to see Broadway shows, and they would even read the plays beforehand.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Selma’s name to the Queens College Foundation.

The Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives at Queensborough Community College is named after her in-laws, Harriet and Kenneth.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 11:16 pm, February 1, 2012
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