Flushing-born Max Kupferberg dies at 97

Philanthropist Max Kupferberg passes away at age 97.
By Gina Martinez

Flushing born philanthropist Max Kupferberg has died at 97.

Kupferberg and his family have been active in the Queens community, donating millions throughout the years to multiple causes and running their family business out of Flushing.

Kupferberg and his twin brother Ken were born in 1919 to Romanian parents who came to the United States in 1903. Their father was a cabinetmaker and mother was a homemaker, He had six siblings in total.

Max and Ken graduated from Flushing High School in 1937 and entered Queens College just as it was opening and became part of its first incoming class. Kupferberg graduated from Queens College in 1941 and attended Columbia University until he was drafted. Both Max and his brother majored in physics.

In the army Max was assigned to Los Alamos, N.M., where he worked on the top secret Manhattan Project, which developed nuclear weapons during World War II. He worked on the project with brothers Jesse and Ken and helped devise and build new instruments to advance research on the project. Afterwards Max and his brothers built on their experience as inventors of power equipment during the war and created Kepco Inc. in 1946, an electric parts supplier that is a mainstay in Flushing to this day.

Max loved to give back to his hometown. He donated money and resources to Flushing Hospital and Medical Center, where he served as chairman of the board; the Queens Botanical Garden Society, the YMCA, Queens County Savings Bank, New York Community Bancorp, and many other organizations. In total Kupferberg supported over 40 local organizations

He received an honorary degree from Queens College and was named Alumnus of the Year. He also received the Q Award, which the college gives out to special people it most wants its students to emulate. According to the college, Kupferberg embodied their school motto, Discimus ut serviamus: We Learn So that We May Serve.

Max and his wife Selma, who died in 2012, donated $10 million for programs, exhibitions and renovations at the former Colden Center at Queens College, which was renamed the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in 2006. It includes the Colden Auditorium , the Godwin- Ternbach Museum The Arts Center and the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archives.

“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, the Colden Center, and co-chair, Development Committee of 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. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family. His passion for education and the arts remains an enduring inspiration to his Queens College community.”

He is survived by his two children Rhonda and Saul, who serves on the Queens College Foundation Board and chairs the Kupferberg Center for the Arts Advisory Board.

A service was held at Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows Jan. 6

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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