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Noted philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger dies


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.

Beginning in the 1940s, he was an investor in the Colts, the Orioles and the Baltimore Clippers ice hockey team.

"He was always the strength behind the Colts' franchise in its earliest days," said Sun sports columnist John Steadman. "When everybody wanted to bail out, he dipped into his pockets."

Mr. Krieger helped keep the Colts franchise in Baltimore when, in 1952, he accepted a challenge from National Football League commissioner Bert Bell to sell 15,000 season tickets for the next year. The effort was successful.

Mr. Krieger, who dressed in conservative suits, wore a 1958 Colts World Championship ring and an Orioles 1979 World Series ring.

He eventually sold his Colts stock to Carroll Rosenbloom, a move he later regretted when ownership changed and Robert Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis in 1984.

"When Irsay took the Colts, I was crushed," Mr. Krieger said in a 1987 interview in The Sun. "I felt I had lost my longtime friend. I felt I had given birth to something only to have this rascal come in and take it away. And the way he did it ... it is something you never get over. Never."

For many years, Mr. Krieger went to Orioles games with Milton Eisenhower, the president of The Johns Hopkins University. They sat on the third-base line so they could be close to Brooks Robinson, a player the pair much admired.

Along with his friend, Orioles president Jerry Hoffberger, Mr. Krieger sold his share of Orioles stock to Edwin Bennett Williams in 1979.

Mr. Krieger said at that time, "Life will be a little dull - there will be a void."

Mr. Krieger was a canny investor. He made his largest fortune with a 1964 investment in U.S. Surgical Corp., a company that bought the rights to market a device developed in the Soviet Union to close incisions with staples.

In the 1970s, Mr. Krieger began to distribute his wealth to charities.

"I did it because it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to be able to benefit others," he said in a 1996 Sun interview. "I think the basis of life is satisfaction. We all do things to satisfy ourselves. If you have money, you might as well be able to enjoy it. I enjoy giving."

"It gave him great joy to be able to give," said a daughter, Betsy L. Krieger of Roland Park. "He always said, 'Giving money away was more fun than buying a Rolls-Royce.'"

Among his many honors, Mr. Krieger was named Man of the Year by the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in 1967. He received the Albert Einstein Award from the American Technion Society in 1981. The Jewish National Fund gave him its Man of the Year Award in 1992.

He married Isabelle Lowenthal in 1947; she died in 1989.

Funeral services for Mr. Krieger will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road.

He is survived by another daughter, Jeanie Krieger Kahn of Bethesda; and four grandchildren.

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