The Biggest Philanthropist You’ve Never Heard Of
Adrienne Arsht learned to give while growing up in Wilmington. She may call a triumvirate of large Eastern cities her home now—if the relentless traveler can be said to have a home at all—but she can never leave Delaware behind.
(page 1 of 6)
Every year, thousands of Delaware residents have Adrienne Arsht to thank for funding their school services, work programs and local research initiatives, to the tune of millions of dollars.
In Miami, her name adorns everything from metro stops to trash cans at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. She serves as treasurer of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She sits on the board of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She is one of the nation’s top 50 philanthropic donors. She even has her own orchid.
But in her hometown, she flies under the radar. And that’s just fine with her.
“I don’t think of myself as someone who has done anything that worthy. I don’t think I’ve done anything extraordinary,” says Arsht, 68. “I’m just a girl from Delaware, and that’s how I was raised.”
Arsht grew up in Wilmington, and she returns often. But mostly it’s Miami she calls home. Or sometimes Washington. Or New York. At one point last spring, she had four suitcases packed, each for a different trip.
She started with three days in Miami before going to Boston, where she sits on the board of the John F. Kennedy library, then back to Miami for an interview. Then she was off to New York to meet with the board of the Budapest Festival Orchestra and with fellow philanthropist Daisy Soros. Then, eventually, to Berlin, where the suitcase was waiting for her in her hotel for an evening at a Wynton Marsalis concert.
“I don’t really have a permanent anything,” says Arsht, speaking from Washington. “I’ll come back for a day or two, but then I’m traveling all over the place.”
It’s a typical schedule for Arsht. From the arts to the boards—eight major ones—she prefers to be going, going, going. That’s the way it’s always been.
“She’s just very outgoing,” says former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “She loves having strangers meet each other. She’s better at it than anyone else I’ve ever known.”
Page 2: The Biggest Philanthropist You’ve Never Heard Of, continues...