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Philanthropist Glorya Kaufman named USC trustee

USC President C. L. Max Nikias hosted a gala dinner in November to celebrate Glorya Kaufman and her transformative gift to create the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Pictured here from left, Dean Robert A. Cutietta, Kaufman and Nikias (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Internationally celebrated arts patron Glorya Kaufman has been elected a life member of the USC Board of Trustees.

Known throughout the arts world as “the dancing philanthropist,” Kaufman is well-known for her deep love of dance and generous support of dance programs, including The Music Center in Los Angeles, The Juilliard School in New York and the new USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

“I am delighted to welcome Glorya Kaufman to our Board of Trustees,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said. “Around the world, the Kaufman name is synonymous with excellence in the performing arts. With her far-reaching vision of enabling all members of society to benefit from the transformative powers of art, and her strategic focus on arts education, I know that she will contribute significantly to the continued vitality of the university and its mission of enriching the human mind and spirit.”

In November, Kaufman made a transformational gift — her largest to date — to create and endow USC Kaufman. The first school to be established through an endowment at USC in nearly 40 years, USC Kaufman joins the university’s five other arts schools — in architecture, cinematic arts, dramatic arts, fine arts and music — and will offer instruction in contemporary and classical dance. It is expected to admit its first class of dance majors in fall 2015.

Kaufman’s gift will also fund construction of the new school’s instructional building. The Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center is slated for groundbreaking on the University Park Campus in spring 2014.

Kaufman grew up in Detroit, and from the beginning her parents showed her the importance of generosity and charity. It was during her early years that Kaufman developed her passion for dance; even before she could walk, as she recalls, she would stand on her father’s feet as he moved to the music. By the time she was a teenager, Kaufman was entering dance contests, experimenting with rhythms ranging from mambo, rumba and cha-cha to tango.

In 1954, Kaufman married homebuilder Donald Bruce Kaufman, co-founder of what would become the Fortune 500 building company Kaufman & Broad, now KB Homes. For a span of time, her love of dance took a back seat while she dedicated herself to raising four children and managing the couple’s charitable giving. Following her husband’s untimely death in 1983, Glorya Kaufman rededicated herself to dance and began focusing even more intensely on philanthropic ventures.

Extending her support to projects beyond the art world, she established a challenge grant to rebuild the Los Angeles Public Library’s Donald Bruce Kaufman – Brentwood Branch Library, named in memory of her late husband. She also contributed to the restoration of St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after the 1994 earthquake. In partnership with the Jules Stein Eye Institute, she helped to launch a mobile eye clinic benefitting children throughout Los Angeles, with additional care provided at the Venice Family Clinic’s Glorya Kaufman Eye Clinic and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She has also provided scholarships to single mothers through the American Jewish University.

In 2008, she established the Glorya Kaufman Dance Foundation, which provides funding for nonprofit arts, education, research and health care programs throughout the United States.

Kaufman provided $20 million in 2009 to support Dance at The Music Center — now known as Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center — to help bring major dance companies to perform in Southern California. At the time, the gift was believed to be the largest ever made to support dance in the United States.

In 1999, Kaufman gave $18 million to the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Arts and Architecture to help renovate the university’s dance building, which was renamed Glorya Kaufman Hall. She also gave $6 million to the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and in 2009 she oversaw the dedication of Juilliard’s glass-enclosed Glorya Kaufman Dance Studio in Manhattan, made possible by her $3.5 million gift to the school.

Among the many Southern California-based organizations supported by the Glorya Kaufman Dance Foundation are the Geffen Playhouse, City of Hope, Mar Vista Family Center, Covenant House California, Venice Family Clinic, Dizzy Feet Foundation and Inner-City Arts.

Kaufman is a founding member of The Music Center Board of Ambassadors. In addition, she is a member of the Geffen Playhouse Board of Directors and the Venice Family Clinic’s Philanthropy Board, and an honorary member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute Affiliates.

In recognition of her dedication to dance education, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Juilliard in 2010, and another from Fordham University in 2011.

Kaufman is a resident of Brentwood, Calif.

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