Richard Lansburgh

February 6, 2014
BY Melissa Gerr
Retired clothier, passionate philanthropist

020714_Lansburgh-obitRichard M. Lansburgh, a retired clothier known for his dedication to philanthropic work, died on Jan. 28 at the age of 91, just a day before his 92nd birthday.

Lansburgh was born in 1922 to Sidney Lansburgh Sr., and the former Marian Epstein. He was also the grandson of renowned Baltimore entrepreneur and philanthropist Jacob Epstein, a founder of The Associated Jewish Charities, a founding trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art and proprietor of Baltimore Bargain House, a mail-order wholesale business that became the fourth-largest wholesaler in the county.

Lansburgh received his B.A. from Dartmouth College and served in the Navy during World War II as a lieutenant junior grade on amphibious support craft at Normandy and Okinawa. He returned to Baltimore and eventually became vice president of Raleigh Stores, Inc. He and wife Therese Weil raised two children, Randolph Wolff and Deborah Wolff Adler.

Lansburgh was passionate about carrying on his family’s legacy of philanthropic work. He served many roles within The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, including chairman of the Annual Campaign in 1990 and chairman of the organization from 1993 to 1995.  He was a leader in The Associated’s Passage to Freedom initiative and a co-chairman of Operation Exodus, American Jewry’s effort to rescue and resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union. In 1993, Lansburgh was elected chairman of The Associated’s board of directors.

Marc Terrill, president of The Associated, recalled his first meeting with Lansburgh.

“Richard was the first volunteer leader I met,” said Terrill. “It was at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and I remember a kindhearted man with a stately presence. Over the decades, I became more and more fond of his authenticity and humanity. … Baltimore lost one of its great treasures, but his memory will endure forever.”

Lansburgh’s philanthropic involvement covered a wide spectrum. He served on the boards of Sinai Hospital, Temple Oheb Shalom and the Jewish Big Brother & Big Sister League. Beyond the Jewish community, he served on the boards of the League for the Handicapped, the Epilepsy Association of America, the Park School, the Schapiro Training and Employment Program and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Lansburgh was serving on the board of trustees at the BMA when Doreen Bolger, the museum’s current director, was hired in 1998. Bolger said Lansburgh was very involved during his role on the board, and he was an inspiration.

“He so understood the amazing gift of his grandparents, Jacob and Lena,” said Bolger, “that it’s a legacy that serves the city and the museum. He took a very active interest and role in furthering that legacy.”

Two of the BMA’s most important works are a part of the Jacob Epstein collection: van Dyck’s “Rinaldo and Armida” and Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Lansburgh and his wife also made several gifts to the museum, including two Rodin sculptures: a bust of writer Victor Hugo and a portrait sculpture of Rodin’s model Rose Beuret called “Mignon.”

Lansburgh’s father served as president of The Associated Jewish Charities in the 1920s and 1930s and the Jewish Welfare Fund in 1946. His uncle, A. Ray Katz, was a president of The Associated, and his brother, Sidney Lansburgh Jr., was chairman of The Associated’s 1971 Annual Campaign and its president from 1971 to 1973.

“The Associated was a major part of his life,” said Elizabeth Ferro, a longtime family friend and executive assistant. “Richard was terribly concerned to have his family remembered much more than his own personal acclaim.”

Lansburgh was father of Deborah Wolff Adler and the late Randolph Maurice Wolff; grandfather of Arthur and Andrew Adler; and great-grandfather of Drew, Ray and Mary Arthur Adler.

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