A child of immigrants from Romania, Kupferberg was born in 1919 and raised in Flushing. He graduated from Flushing High School and studied physics at Queens College, where he was a member of the very first incoming class.
Kupferberg worked on the Manhattan Project — a U.S. government research and development project during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons — and later founded Kepco Inc. with his three brothers, Ken, Jack and Jesse. He continued to work at the company until 2014.
He and his wife Selma — who were married for 65 years until her passing in 2012 — endowed cultural programming and refurbished performance and museum venues at Queens College. The Colden Center at Queens College was renamed the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in their honor.
Through their personal and family foundations, the philanthropists supported over 40 local organizations, including the Queens Botanical Gardens, Flushing YMCA, Queens College Foundation and Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.
Kupferberg also served on numerous nonprofit and business boards, including time as chairman of the board at Flushing Hospital.
He is survived by two children.
“With great sorrow we note the passing of Max Kupferberg, Queens College class of 1942,” Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said. “He was a dynamic presence on campus, serving as president of the Colden Center Board and co-chair of the Development Committee for the Kupferberg Center. His family’s transformational gift was instrumental in revitalizing the arts at Queens College, making the campus the cultural epicenter of Queens. He received both an honorary degree from QC and our special Q Award, which goes to those who embody our motto: ‘We Learn So That We May Serve.’ In recognition of his exemplary service, Colden Center was renamed the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family. His passion for education and the arts remains an enduring inspiration to his Queens College community.”
A service will be held for Kupferberg at Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows on Friday, Jan. 6, at 11 a.m.