A Clear Example of a World Changer
Arsht believes that the arts provide the master key for making society and communities better, and she made it her life long journey to promote and support artistic growth, primarily in Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C. “I want to set an example so women know it is okay to give. It makes me feel good, and you really can change the world.” Those are the words of world changer Adrienne Arsht.
We are not born heroes, but all of us are born to become heroes. From birth we are all given this mission; it is up to each and every one of us to answer that higher calling. Adrienne Arsht answered her call by following in her parent’s footsteps. In the process of making sure that her parents had a great legacy, she created her own.
Adrienne Arsht was born in Wilmington, Delaware on February 4th, 1942, and she is the older of two daughters born to Samuel and Roxana Arsht. Her grandparents were poor Russian Jewish immigrants who immigrated to Wilmington, Delaware.
Having finished high school one year ahead of her classmates at Tower Hill School, Adrienne Arsht was quickly admitted to Mount Holyoke College where she pursued a bachelor’s degree. Ms. Arsht later attended the Villanova University School of Law. After graduating from Villanova, Arsht became the 11th woman admitted to the Delaware bar. Her mother, Roxana, was the 5th woman admitted to the Delaware bar. Adrienne Arsht certainly followed in her parent’s footsteps.
Adrienne Arsht married Mr. Myer Feldman in 1980. From 1966 to 1996, she worked as a lawyer for different law firms and for Trans World Airlines. Ms. Arsht later moved to Miami to manage Total Bank, which was owned by her family. Arsht served as the board chairman until 2007, when she sold Total Bank to Banco Popular (with the understanding that she retained her title as Chairman Emeritus of Total Bank); Arsht reportedly made over $200 million off of the sale and could easy allow herself to focus full-time on her true passion: philanthropy.
One of Arsht’s first philanthropic endeavors was to make a generous donation to the Carnival Center in Miami-Dade County. Ms. Arsht has a profound passion for the arts, and she donated $30 million to the center in 2008. Her donation helped secure financing for the center, which is now called the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
In New York Arsht donated $10 million to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where she is also a member of the board of directors. In Washington, Arsht created the Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center at the Atlantic Council to focus on the role of South America in the trans-Atlantic world. She also donated $5 million to help establish the Adrienne Arsht Musical Theater Fund at the Kennedy Center, which supports and promotes a wide variety of musical theater productions.
Her other areas of focus include being a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and being a co-founder of “Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative”, a program which solely focuses on providing confidential advice to struggling U.S. non-profit groups.
Arsht has held important positions in multiple organizations, such as the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, the Atlantic Council, the Metropolitan Opera, the University of Miami, the Fine Arts Committee of the U.S. State Department, the Blair House Restoration Fund, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leadership Circle of the Women in the World Foundation, and Amigos for Kids.
In 2004 she became part of the Million Dollar Roundtable of the United Way of Miami Dade, and in 2008 Arsht famously became the first and so far the only woman to have joined the Five Million Dollar Roundtable of United Way of Miami Dade. In 2005 Arsht proudly announced a $2 million gift to Goucher College for the purpose of creating the Roxana Cannon Arsht Center for Ethics and Leadership in honor of her late mother, who graduated from the school in 1935. In October of 2008, Arsht committed more than $6 million to the University of Miami to support the university-wide Arsht Ethics Programs.
She also assisted the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami. In February of 2009, Arsht funded the creation of the Best Buddies Delaware chapter to serve Hispanics and African Americans with mental disabilities. By 2008 Arsht was ranked number 39 on the list of America’s top fifty biggest donors.
The odds were against her in many ways, but she did not let societal norms stop her from answering her ultimate call to greatness. Adrienne Arsht wanted to set an example, not only for this generation but for the ones that will follow. The example that Adrienne Arsht has set should make us realize that we can all do great things, regardless of our gender, race, or country of origin. Greatness lies within us; we ought to let it come out.