Jill Krementz Photo Journal: Celebrating the Life of Lewis B. Cullman

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Louise and Lewis Cullman, photographed by Jill Krementz on September 21, 2017 at 555 Park Avenue.

When Lewis Cullman (1919-2019) was a young boy he wanted to grow up and be a weatherman. As a young man his graduate studies in meteorology were cut short by WWII, but he never stopped loving the weather, eventually funding a private weather forecasting service in Boston.

Louise and Lewis photographed by Jill Krementz in Darien on November 18, 2017.

After a brief stint with his family business, Lewis started his own company, Cullman Ventures, that acquired startups. It was a huge success and was sold in 1990 for $550 million. Lewis’s share was $300 million.

Lewis and his then wife Dorothy Cullman became philanthropists with a goal — to give most of their money away in their lifetimes. And that they did.

Among the recipients, too many to name, were dozens of institutions in New York City: MoMA, The Rose Center at The American Museum of Natural History, WNET, The New York Botanical Gardens, NYPL, Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell, and, perhaps his favorite, Chess in the Schools. He also donated generously to his alma mater Yale University.

When Dorothy died Lewis found love once again and in 2010 he married Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, the widow of Al Hirschfeld. With Louise’s bountiful good cheer, Lewis lived to be 100.

His life was celebrated on Monday February 3, 2020 at the New York Public Library.


Memorial programs celebrating the life of Lewis B. Cullman — January 26-June 7, 2019 — and listing the speakers offering tributes.
Louise Hirschfeld Cullman and Joel Grey, one of the speakers.
Glenn Lowry (Director, MoMA), Agnes Gund (Chairperson, PS 1 MoMA), Gregory Long (Director Emeritus, New York Botanical Gardens). All three were speakers.
Mr. Lowry, a fellow ski bird, recalled tearing down the Aspen mountain with Lewis when he was well into his 80s. What Lewis took from skiing is what he took from life: Speed, risk and pleasure.
Aggie summed him up as “a boundless optimist.”
Left: Louise with Larry Leeds.
Right: Midge Woolsey, Musical Host Emeritus-WQXR.
Left: Joel Grey, who recently directed a Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof. Joel contributed his papers to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Right: Louise introduces her grandsons Max and Leo to Joel Grey.
Jonathan and Antony Kerz with their mother Louise Kerz Hirschfeld Cullman.
Director Trip Cullman, Lewis’s nephew, and Joel Grey.
Anthony Marx, President of the NY Public Library, gave the opening remarks.
Jac Venza, Producer Emeritus, Great Performances, WNET: “When you’re 93 you write down your notes.”
Mr. Venza spoke of Lewis’s generosity and showed brief video clips of many of the special broadcasts.
Naeem Crawfold-Muhammad, Graduate of Chess In the Schools Lewis Cullman maintained.
“There are more moves on a chessboard than there are stars in the sky.”
The tributes ended with closing remarks from Lewis’s widow.
“We had the last dance around the ball room floor,” she said.
Glenn Lowry, Louise, and Jac Venza.
Martha Hodes (Historian and author of Illicit Unions), with Darryl Pinckney.
Tony Marx.
Left: Cullman Center Scholar and writer Stacy Schiff who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in biography for Vera.
Right: Darryl Pinckney, also a previous fellow at the Cullman Center. “The Cullman Center tells every writer you are not by yourself. I was just glad every morning when I made it to the door because every day I stepped over the threshold I was filled with hope.”
Betsy Gotbaum and Emily Rafferty.
Betsy had a busy day having gone to a memorial earlier in the day at Carnegie Hall honoring the life of Felix Rohatyn where Hillary and Bill Clinton gave moving tributes.
Louise with grandsons Max & Leo and Elyse & Lawrence Benenson.
Left: Wendy Keys.
Right: Elyse and Lawrence Benenson.
Louise with fellow Cullman fellows Darryl Pinckney and Jean Strouse, Director Emeritus Cullman Center at NYPL.
Louise and Joel embrace.
A bouquet of flowers was sent by Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude.

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