Wednesday, Aug. 3 saw the passing of one of the most influential figures ever to grace Baltimore — lawyer, philanthropist and art collector LeRoy “Roy” Hoffberger. He was 91.
Hoffberger was born in 1925 into a family that made fortunes in manufacturing and distributing ice, coal and fuel oil. He was raised surrounded by real estate developers and supporters of the city’s arts, educational, medical and Jewish communal organizations. As such, he was groomed to be involved with the community, obvious from the physical proof that exists around Baltimore.
“There aren’t many organizations in Baltimore that don’t have his fingerprint in one way or another,” said Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “His leadership has been felt and will be felt in The Associated for generations to come. He loved being Jewish, He was proud of our traditions, our heritage and our teachings. He grappled with Judaism mentally and physically, and it was apparent from the way he conducted himself.”
His second wife, Rebecca Hoffberger, shared that “his connection to the Jewish world aside from heritage was very philanthropic,” but he loved being Jewish. She shared that “he didn’t learn to read Hebrew until after the age of 80, when he decided to study with the same teacher who taught his own son.”
Together with Rebecca, Hoffberger co-founded the American Visionary Arts Museum.
Hoffberger also provided the endowment for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Graduate School of Painting, which is named in his honor. According to its website, “[The] LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting is one of the only graduate programs in the country to focus solely on painting, allowing a select group of highly talented painters to find their individual voices and develop the discourse to position their work in the contemporary arts world.”
However, his crowning achievement came in the form of the development of 2,000 acres of farmland in Montgomery County 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. “Today, Germantown is the third-largest urban area in the state and home to 80,000 people,” Hoffberger proudly told the JT in 2014.
“Roy was one-of-a-kind, and that mold has been broken,” Terrill reflected. “He was a thoughtful gentleman who knew how to lead and be led. He listened, had opinions and worked with people to identify a problem and come up with solutions that could impact the greater good.”
He served as the president of his family’s foundation and was its chairman until his death. The Hoffberger Family Philanthropies consists of two charitable organizations — the Hoffberger Foundation, Inc., a 501c3, and the Hoffberger Family Fund, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated. The organization supports youth development, prescription needs of underserved residents, health in low-income seniors and Jewish community needs. The foundation is one of Maryland’s largest philanthropic funds, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Hoffberger always kept a plaque on his desk that read: “Further discussion is unnecessary. I have said all I want to hear.” The irony reminded him daily of the importance of listening to others and to the wishes of the community as a whole.
“Roy gave until it hurt,” Rebecca shared. “He always believed in something and that he had to be first in the water before he could approach others. He led by example. He thought about his own mortality a lot and wanted to leave the world a better place. He wanted to share with younger generations.”
Her own daughters never knew their own father, but Rebecca explained, “Real daughters couldn’t have loved their father more.”
In the final three years of his life, Hoffberger wrote a book, “Measure of a Life: Memoirs, Insights and Philosophies of LeRoy E. Hoffberger.” According to Rebecca, the book gives a naked point of view of why he did what he did. In it, he restates his belief that “what we leave behind is far more important than how far we get ahead.”
Hoffberger lived up to his lifelong goals. He did not just leave behind a legacy — he left behind a legacy that will continue to aid the community for generations to come.
“My father, Roy, displayed a sense of fairness throughout all aspects of his life — business, faith and community,” his son, Douglas Hoffberger, president of Hoffberger Family Philanthropies, said in a statement. “His love and guidance will certainly be missed, but not forgotten.”