LEXINGTON, Ky. — Growing up in Lexington, Ben C. Kaufmann was introduced to classical music earlier than most. His father, a physician, made it a habit of taking his then-not-so-appreciative 10-year-old son to concerts on the University of Kentucky campus. Like many preteens though, Kaufmann had other ideas of how he would prefer to spend his time.
But what started out as an inconvenience, eventually would spark an appreciation for great music in the high school cornet player and love for such masterpieces as “Rhapsody in Blue.” And a family tradition of service and philanthropy would later fuel a desire to champion the arts.
Building on that family practice of patronage as longtime supporters of UK College of Fine Arts, Kaufmann and his wife, Janet Zusman, have committed to establishing the Ben C. Kaufmann and Janet Zusman Music Fund in the School of Music.
In over 30 years of philanthropic support to UK, the couple’s nearly $400,000 in lifetime giving and new pledge commitments will now include a $6.6 million deferred gift — the largest gift in the history of UK College of Fine Arts and among the largest donations to the arts in Central Kentucky.
Through the Kaufmann and Zusman Fund, the couple’s gift will celebrate and honor the work of Everett McCorvey, director of UK Opera Theatre; John Nardolillo, director UK Symphony Orchestra; and Jefferson Johnson, director of UK Choirs. Funding will be used to not only impact their work and current students, but also future generations of students and the Lexington community and beyond.
The Kaufmann and Zusman gift will support performance, outreach initiatives, and programming for UK Opera Theatre, UK Symphony Orchestra, and UK choral ensembles, to build access to and appreciation for music and ensure that it will thrive in the Bluegrass region. The fund’s priority will be student scholarships.
The fund will also be used to recruit and retain top-ranked faculty that demonstrate excellence and promise and other opportunities for students participating in the opera, orchestra, and choral programs.
This support is a game-changer for UK and the arts, says Dean Mark Shanda of UK College of Fine Arts.
Kaufmann’s gift-giving continues a long tradition of philanthropy and public service carried out by both sides of Kaufmann’s family. His mother, Sara C. Kaufmann, was a member of the Combs family which has a long-standing tradition of service to UK, as well as the Commonwealth, through such key figures as T.T. Jones, a former dean of men at UK; Earl Combs, a former New York Yankee, and her brother, Gov. Bert Combs, Kentucky’s 50th governor. Kaufmann’s parents, Sara and Dr. Maurice Kaufmann, in turn, served the community. As a doctor, Maurice was recognized for his work with patients and his allergy health care practice. In addition, Sara took the lead in funding the first building for Hospice of the Bluegrass.
With Kaufmann and Zusman’s gift, UK College of Fine has now reached and surpassed the college’s $20 million marks as part of UK’s historic $2.1 billion Kentucky Can campaign goal.
The UK College of Fine Arts declares that the arts are essential to the life of the individual and the community. The college expresses its commitment to the arts through its dedication to teaching, scholarly research/creative activity, experimentation, performance, and exhibition.
UK Fine Arts offers Kentucky’s most comprehensive array of educational programs devoted to the visual and performing arts and is comprised of four academic units; the Singletary Center for the Arts, the college’s performing arts facility; and the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Central Kentucky’s premier accredited art museum.
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