Point of View

Adrienne Arsht – Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year
November 23, 2009, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Adrienne Arsht

Adrienne Arsht was honored at the National Philanthropy Day 25th Anniversary Celebration on November 18, during a luncheon hosted by The Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Miami Chapter. The Outstanding Philanthropist award is presented to an individual with a proven record of exceptional generosity who, through financial support, has demonstrated outstanding civic and charitable responsibility, and whose generosity encourages others to take philanthropic leadership role on a community, nation and/or international level.

Adrienne was recognized for her generosity of spirit and exemplary service to the Miami community. As Outstanding Philanthropist of 2009, Adrienne has been an extra-ordinary supporter of the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the Center would like to share with POV readers the winning nomination it submitted in her honor.


One person can indeed make a difference in a community.

The Greek author Plutarch said: “What we achieve inwardly will change our outer reality.” That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

Adrienne Arsht touches thousands of peoples’ lives simply by existing. Arsht personifies all that a philanthropist should be. She is a visionary, willing to take risks, active in the community, collaborative and practical. She endeavors to help humankind through her extraordinary philanthropic accomplishments. Adrienne Arsht is uniquely qualified to receive the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Philanthropist Award because she sets the standard for philanthropic giving not only in South Florida, but throughout the nation.

To say that Adrienne Arsht exceeds the expectations of philanthropy would be an understatement. With a $30 million donation to the performing arts center in January 2008, Arsht single-handedly altered the course of Miami’s cultural landscape. The entire amount, pledged over three years, is a true example of Arsht’s commitment to the South Florida community. In recognition of this gift, it was only fitting for the Center to honor this incomparable contribution by changing its name to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Thanks to Adrienne Arsht, the Center welcomed its one millionth patron in April 2009, a feat accomplished in less than three full seasons since opening. Thriving programming and burgeoning commercial activity reflect the Center’s institutional progress. Arsht’s gift secured the Center’s financial footing and ensured the quality of cultural programming for future generations and the growth of Miami as a world-class city.

Arsht’s main goal in all of her varied endeavors has always remained the same – to improve her community through action. The powerhouse philanthropist plays a key role in supporting several worthy organizations through her tireless volunteer efforts and generous donations. In 2004, she became the first woman to join the Million Dollar Roundtable of United Way of Miami-Dade. In 2005, Arsht announced a $2 million gift to Goucher College, creating the Roxana Cannon Arsht Center for Ethics and Leadership, in honor of her late mother, a Goucher graduate. She announced a $3 million gift to the University of Miami for the creation of the Arsht Ethics Programs at UM; $1 million to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami; and $750,000 to Best Buddies International for the development of a Delaware chapter, specifically serving Hispanics and African-Americans with mental disabilities. Most recently, she announced a $5 million contribution to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to support musical theater programming. In January 2009, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Arsht number 39 on its 2008 America’s 50 biggest donors list.

Adrienne Arsht has numerous leadership roles in the community as she promotes artistic, business and civic growth and development in her adopted hometown of Miami, Florida and throughout other communities in the U.S. She co-founded a program called “Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative,” which provides free, confidential planning assistance and consulting to struggling arts organizations. This is one of the innovative approaches Arsht undertook to solve problems within the nonprofit community in response to the emergency facing arts organizations throughout the U.S. in this current economic climate.

Arsht also serves on various national boards, including the Metropolitan Opera, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theatre, Best Buddies International and The Global Advisory Board of the Washington National Opera. In South Florida, she is Chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation, and also sits on the board of the University of Miami and Amigos for Kids. Arsht is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Fine Arts Committee of the U.S. State Department, a lifetime trustee of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and a fellow of The Aspen Institute.

As the Adrienne Arsht Center works to promote its mission, dedicated volunteers like Adrienne Arsht promote philanthropy. She is widely recognized as the driving force that secured the future of the Center. In her role at the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation, she made a bold statement about her strong support for the Center when she made a personal pledge of $30 million and openly encouraged others to give and take leadership roles in philanthropy- whether by giving or volunteering.

Arsht has received numerous award and honors for her life-long contributions to both business and community. In 2005, the Florida Council on Economic Education inducted Arsht into its Business Hall of Fame. Other awards include: the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Finance for Florida; the Essie Silva Community Builder Award from the United Way; Dade Partners Exemplary Business Leader Award from the Miami-Dade County Public schools; Shining Star Award by the Arts & Business Council of Miami; and Woman Banker of the Year by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Adrienne Arsht is a leader for others to emulate and inspires everyone around her to join with her dedication and caring. Her intelligence, capacity for hard work, the education she has earned and received, give her unique status and unique responsibilities. That she chooses to use her status and influence to support the community’s most pressing needs; that she retains the ability to imagine herself into the lives of those who do not have her advantages, then it is not only the Adrienne Arsht Center who celebrates her existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality she has helped transform for the better.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County feels fortunate to have the opportunity to know and work with a truly outstanding individual, a lover of the arts, and a great human being in every sense of the word. On behalf of everyone who has benefited from her phenomenal philanthropic service, we nominate Adrienne Arsht for the Outstanding Philanthropist Award of 2009.

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