Ruth Widder, a philanthropist and music lover who served on the Board of Trustees of The Mannes College of Music in Manhattan and Guild Hall of East Hampton and the Board of Directors of the Orchestra of St. Lukes, died on Feburary 20th of natural causes in Manhattan. She also served on the Visiting Committee of the Musical Instrument Collection at the Metropolitan Museum and was closely affiliated with The Manhattan School of Music. She was 84.
From 1955 to the present, she spent summers and weekends in Montauk, where she loved tending her garden, playing sports, swimming and spending time with family and neighbors.
After graduating from Hunter College with a degree in economics in 1948, she went to work in the insurance industry at a time when few women held executive positions in that field. In 1955, she married Herman Widder with whom she had two daughters, Lynnette and Laurie. During the tumultuous late 1960s and early 70s, she was the president of the Parents’ Association at Hunter College Elementary School, which both daughters attended. She was instrumental in organizing protest marches for the school children and parents, successfully resisting a City University decision to close the school. The school moved three times during that period, a process she helped to facilitate. In 1987, she completed a Masters Degree in economics at Hunter College.
During the 1970s, she also served on the Board of Trustees at the Mannes College of Music, now part of The New School. A committed amateur pianist, she championed the careers of many younger musicians, including Boris Slutsky, now Chair of the Piano Department at the Peabody Conservatory; The American String Quartet, the quartet in residence at The Manhattan School of Music; and the Brazilian pianist and musicologist Max Baros.
Her commitment to introducing classical, jazz and folk music to new audiences led her to found Music for Montauk in 1991, a not-for-profit offering four free concerts a year during the off-season in Montauk, Long Island. Collaborating with the Montauk Public School, she organized daytime concerts for school children and evening concerts for the larger community. The programming reflected her passions for chamber music, Swing, American musical theater and traditional songs, but also addressed the musical traditions of the area’s older and newer immigrant populations, from Irish to Latin. At the Orchestra of St. Lukes, where she was a board member since 1990, she served as the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Board of Directors, supporting the Orchestra’s outreach work in the New York City school system.
Beginning in 2002, she was an adviser to the Department of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in 2005, became a member of The Visiting Committee, which advises on the Department’s programs and long-term goals.
In addition, she was the Chairman and Director of The Widder Foundation and a Co-Director of Widder Bros. Inc.
A memorial service will be held on February 27th at 11:30 AM at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan.