Take It from Me with Nancy Kranzberg

Exudes Exuberance. Philanthropist. Friend of the Arts (and singer!).

By Diane Kline

Nancy Kranzberg photo by Justin Barr

When Nancy Kranzberg walks into a room, her laughter is her calling card. The 73-year-old philanthropist is as well-known for her warmth as for her generosity. But to get a front-row look at her unbounded joy, watch her belt out “St. Louis Woman” on stage at a fundraiser.

She and Ken, her husband of 49 years, are unbridled cheerleaders for the arts. The couple was behind developing the Grand Center district, including the Kranzberg Arts Center and the .ZACK, an arts incubator that houses 30 cultural groups.

The mother of two adult daughters and four grandchildren, Kranzberg hosts the KDHX radio program, “Arts Interview,” is an arts commentator on St. Louis Public Radio KWMU, and also writes an arts column in The St. Louis Jewish Light.

I don’t take myself too seriously

My parents were very down to earth, and I was a second-grade teacher. It was an accident that I’ve gotten recognition. The proudest awards I received were long before we were financially successful – for my work at Laumeier Sculpture Park and Washington University libraries. It made me proud to be recognized for my creativity and commitment.

It’s not my place to tell people what to do with their money

As a child, I put coins in a box that we would give to charity. Then when we got married and had little money, Ken sat me down and said how important it was for us to donate what we could. Today, I don’t like when people say, “That person should be giving more to this cause.” People give what they want and it is no one else’s business.

Seeing the name “Kranzberg” on buildings used to embarrass me

I thought people would say, “Who the hell does she think she is?” But now, I’m proud that the Kranzberg family has helped so many organizations to thrive. And I’m proud that our daughters are active in the community, creating their own worlds in philanthropy.

I’m not some little patsy

When somebody wants something from us, I can see right through them. But if helping them makes us feel good, what the hell? It’s like the old man who marries a young girl. Everyone knows what’s going on, but he’s got a big smile on his face.

Our marriage has survived because of patience – on Ken’s part!

My friend fixed me up with her boyfriend’s friend. Ken was seven years older than me, and I was intimidated by him. We dated on and off for five years before we got married. Ken says he should have married me when I was scared of him because now he’s scared of me!

I am a fearless world explorer

I have hiked around the world – including the Himalaya Mountains and the Patagonia region of Chile – and I have three knee replacements to prove it. Travel was always important from an early age. When I was paid from my first job working in a drug store, I put part of my paycheck away to use towards touring through Europe.

Everybody thinks they’re nuts

People go through difficult times – they’re upset or maybe depressed – and wonder if they’re crazy. Everyone gets like this at some point. When my friends are there, I’m able to comfort them because I have an understanding of the human spirit. They say I make them feel human again.

I have always put myself last

It’s very important for us to help and support people. But a wise friend told me that I don’t have to put myself last. I can ask, “Do I want this other person to be happy, or do I want to be happy?” That helped me to confront behavior in others that I don’t like.

It doesn’t take much to topple me over

I’m old and tired and people can get on my nerves. If somebody criticizes or says something negative about me, it hurts. Snooty people can be hurtful, but it’s because they’re very insecure. And it’s important that people know I don’t think I’m better than anybody else.

“She tried her best.”

That’s what I would say about myself. My friends would say, “She had it all… in more ways than one.”