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Albright-Knox Announces Historic Gift, Honors the Legacy of Peggy Pierce Elfvin (1922–2012)

October 9, 2013

Buffalo, NY – Leslie H. Zemsky, President of the Board of Directors of The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, governing body of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, announced an historic bequest to the museum by the late Peggy Pierce Elfvin tonight at the Academy’s Annual Meeting. Mrs. Elfvin’s extraordinary generosity will endow the position of the Albright-Knox Director in perpetuity and provide important operational support to the museum. Her gift of approximately $11 million, of which the Albright-Knox has received $8.6 million to date, represents one of the most significant bequests in the museum’s history. 

Members of the Academy honored Mrs. Elfvin at the meeting, noting her devotion and commitment to the institution during her lifetime. Mrs. Elfvin was a member of the Board of Directors for thirty years, from 1975 to 2005, and she served most recently as Honorary Member of the Executive Committee. She also served the museum in a number of other important capacities: as a staff member, she promoted the Gallery’s work as a public relations assistant, and as a volunteer on the Members’ Council, she devoted countless hours to fundraising through special events and her legendary and highly popular art tours, which were often sold out before brochures reached mailboxes.

Speaking about the bequest, Zemsky noted, “Peg was devoted to the Albright-Knox, and her legacy, both here at the Gallery and in the community, is one of boundless generosity. This extraordinary gift is a milestone in the history of the museum, and it will have a profound and immediate impact that will continue for generations to come. She was an inspiration to all of us.”

The Gallery’s eleventh director, Dr. Janne Sirén, will become the first Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Sirén said, “I am privileged to be the first in this lineage, a truly special honor. Mrs. Elfvin was a remarkable philanthropist and patron of the arts. During her lifetime, alongside her husband, the late Judge John T. Elfvin, she set a shining example of unwavering support for art and culture in Buffalo. I am proud to continue her work, and her extraordinary and enduring legacy. Mrs. Elfvin’s inspiring generosity significantly bolsters our endowment and becomes a cornerstone for many of our strategic aspirations, ranging from programming to campus development. Moreover, her gift will help us overcome a structural deficit that has hampered the level of our operations for a number of years. It is very difficult for an institution struggling under a structural deficit to grow and to envision the future. Mrs. Elfvin’s gift significantly mitigates this pressure. We are enormously grateful.”

A special memorial award, the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Award for Extraordinary Service, was also announced at the meeting. The award honors an individual or organization for exceptional service to or support of the Albright-Knox over a sustained period. It recognizes and pays tribute to contributions to the museum’s success that go far beyond the usual bounds. Karen Lee Spaulding, longtime Albright-Knox Deputy Director, was named the first recipient of the award this evening, in honor of her thirty-six years of outstanding service to the museum, her dedication, and her exemplary standards of ethics, professionalism, and grace. 

Peggy Pierce Elfvin was born in East Orange, New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University in 1943. She spent her years after college working in advertising at IBM, a company she left for a short time during World War II to serve as a lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve. She moved to Buffalo with her husband, Judge John T. Elfvin, whom she married in 1949, and she resumed her advertising career in the public relations office at the Albright-Knox. As her health began to fail, she continued to take an active interest in the museum’s acquisitions and exhibitions. She died in her home at the age of 90 on October 8, 2012.

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