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Calman J. ‘Buddy’ Zamoiski Jr., former CEO of Independent Distributors Inc., whose philanthropic interests spanned medicine, education and the arts, dies

Calman "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr.'s philanthropic interests included medicine, education and the arts.
Calman "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr.'s philanthropic interests included medicine, education and the arts.

Calman J. “Buddy” Zamoiski Jr., former CEO of Independent Distributors Inc., a family-owned business, whose far-ranging philanthropic interests included medicine, education and the arts, died Wednesday in his sleep at his home in Easton. The former longtime Harbor Court resident was 93.

“Maryland never had a more passionate advocate for the arts than Buddy Zamoiski,” said former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley. “You could call him a power player, but he played that power for the people of our state and he realized the arts could lift people. He realized the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra could be a powerful representative on the world stage for our state, our economy, and culture, and he played a key role in keeping it financially healthy.”

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Ronald R. Peterson, former president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, is a longtime friend.

“I got to know Buddy when he came on the Hopkins Hospital board in 1977. He was one of the group of business leaders who were very actively engaged with Hopkins, and he became familiar with all facets of Hopkins and could bridge the nuances between the university and Hopkins medicine, and he understood it from both sides,” Mr. Peterson said.

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“While he was actively engaged at Hopkins and the BSO, he was also involved with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Jewish community and so many other organizations,” Mr. Peterson said. “We were very happy to have his time at the Hopkins institutions and he recognized the importance of them, and we were lucky to had more than four decades of his service. He could be firm and tough, but he had a kind heart.”

“I knew that Buddy was always there for me and we became good friends. When things sometimes get rough at an institution, Buddy was there behind the scenes asking, ‘How can I help?’ He saw the importance of us working together, and I knew he’d be there for me,” said Dr. Edward D. Miller Jr., former dean of the medical faculty at the Johns Hopkins University who was CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine from 1997 to 2012.

“For 16 years I knew I could depend upon him. Buddy was honest as the day is long and he always called a spade a spade. He was forthright, but there was never an animosity. He was one of the finest trustees I ever worked with,” Dr. Miller said. “He was committed to our city as well as Hopkins Medical and the University. Raising up all ships was where Buddy was coming from.”

Calman Jacob Zamoiski Jr., son of Calman J. Zamoiski Sr., and his wife, Gertrude Goldstrom “Gigi” Zamoiski, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and was raised first in Reservoir Hill and later moved with his family to Northwest Baltimore’s Fordleigh neighborhood.

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After graduating in 1946 from McDonogh School, he attended the University of Maryland, College Park for a year, before joining the family business, Independent Distributors Inc., established as an electrical supply business by his immigrant grandfather, Joseph M. Zamoiski, and known as the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. It started in a shop at Baltimore and Hanover streets that eventually expanded into selling record players and battery-operated radios.

After World War I, Mr. Zamoiski’s father returned to Baltimore, established a radio station, WKC, in 1921 that eventually became WCBM and took over his father’s company. In the 1930s, the company began selling appliances, gas ranges, kitchen cabinets and housewares, which eventually came to include television sets and air conditioners.

After his father died in 1972, Mr. Zamoiski took over operation of the Zamoiski Co., which he operated until turning it over in 1994 to his son, James L. Zamoiski, who oversaw the business until his early death in 1997 from a heart attack.

Mr. Zamoiski was chair of the business until retiring in 2008.

His ability to embrace causes as a successful and much-sought-after fundraiser came to define Mr. Zamoiski’s life.

He chaired the BSO board from 1986 to 1990 and again from 1997 to 2003. He was head of the BSO search committee in 1999 that brought Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov to Baltimore in 2000 as the symphony’s music director. He was deeply involved in the process that made the orchestra’s 2000-seat Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda a reality.

His board memberships also included the Baltimore Museum of Art, Sinai Hospital, Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Friends School and the Baltimore Community Foundation. He was a director of Mercantile Bankshares and Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Co. and a trustee of the Central Scholarship Bureau.

Governor O’Malley appointed him to the Maryland Airport Commission.

In 1994, when the Maryland Institute College of Art announced that it was selling its portion of the famous George A. Lucas Collection, Mr. Zamoiski was one of the members who brokered the deal and convinced a skeptical Gov. Parris N. Glendening of the importance of keeping the collection in Maryland. The BMA purchased it for $8.5 million, with the state contributing $4.25 million.

Mr. Zamoiski was active in Democratic politics.

“He was at the center of political life in our state. When I was mayor and governor, Buddy always took a stand and saw that as his duty. He wasn’t afraid of a political fight, and when he came to elected officials asking them to do something, it was generally for the arts,” Governor O’Malley said.

“When you’re a government leader, you get requests from wealthy and successful people for something that will usually benefit some aspect of their own private business, but that wasn’t Buddy,” he said. “He never asked anything for himself — he was always asking for the arts, and said they needed to be open to all. He really fought for the soul of Maryland.”

Gregory Tucker got to know Mr. Zamoiski when he was public relations head at the BSO.

“Buddy always had a desire to make things happen, and he could make connections and connect all the dots,” said Mr. Tucker, the founder and principal of The Tucker Group LLC, a Baltimore communications firm.

“He had a generosity of spirit and he felt that he was obligated to give back and he did generously. ‘It’s what you do,’ he used to say. He made stuff happen, and would say, ‘Just tell me what you need.’ ” Mr. Tucker said. “He had an unpretentious way about him and great humility and was appreciative of the humblest gesture. Buddy was just Buddy from Baltimore.”

Mr. Zamoiski was a member and vice president of Har Sinai Congregation and a member and vice president of the Suburban Club.

He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and eating dinner in the Wine Room at Charleston’s. He was a collector of vintage blue-and-white Staffordshire china.

His wife of more than 60 years, the former Ellen Levi, died in 2010.

Services were private and there will be no memorial service.

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Mr. Zamoiski is survived by his daughter, Clair Segal of Guilford; a sister, Louise Z. Barber of Towson; two grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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