Milton & Tamar Maltz, Arts Patrons & Philanthropists
2013 ROBERT P. BERGMAN PRIZE
Thanks to a grade school teacher who encouraged him to audition, Milton Maltz was cast in the title role of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” making his fateful start in the medium that would be a giant part of his life: radio. He went on to perform in numerous radio dramas originating in Chicago and soon afterward television programs during the medium’s infancy. Still, he was smitten by radio.
“With radio, it’s just voice and sound effects, so the listeners have to use their imaginations,” he says. “Television leaves nothing to the imagination.” As a child during World War II , he was also inspired by Edward R. Murrow’s riveting radio reports from Blitz-besieged London.
After the war, broadcasting gave him another life transforming moment, when he met a Chicago teacher who was auditioning for a program he was directing. Her name was Tamar , and she went on to win the greatest role of her life as Mrs. Maltz. The two have been married for 62 years and have three children, Julie, Daniel and David.
While Tamar taught, Milt served in the Navy and was assigned to the National Security Agency in Washington, DC, during the Korean War. After being discharged, he decided to venture into the ownership side of radio, and formed Malrite Communications in 1956 in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. He served as the company’s Chairman and CEO until it was sold in 1998, and grew it into one of the most successful broadcasting properties in the US, with stations stretching from New York to Los Angeles.
But how did he end up in Cleveland? In 1972, while attending the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Washington, DC, he ran into John Kluge, the owner of Metromedia Corp., whom he knew from his DJ days while in the Navy. He made Kluge an offer for WHK -AM 1420 and WMMS-FM 100.7 in Cleveland. Initially, he had planned to purchase a station in San Diego, since Tamar had family in California and hoped to move there. But when that deal didn’t work out, he made the Cleveland purchase and had to tell Tamar they were relocating here because both stations were in trouble and needed his direct involvement. She resisted at first, but after a few months of Milt’s commuting from Detroit, she gave in, and now, she wouldn’t live anywhere else.
“Tamar refers to the city as ‘My beloved Cleveland,’” Milt reveals.
With a few strategic moves, Milt turned WMMS into Malrite’s flagship station and eventually the premier rock station in the nation. “I made the Buzzard our insignia,” he recalls. “And I never hired announcers with beautiful voices for that station. I went over to Cleveland State and found DJs who understood and could talk about the music, not just announce it.” WMMS became the cornerstone of a flourishing broadcasting business that gave Milt the juice to leverage the deal to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to Cleveland and later made him a wealthy man when he sold Malrite to Raycom Media in 1998.
The year before, Milt and Tamar founded the Maltz Family Foundation as an instrument to centralize their extensive philanthropic and civic work to help their hometown and major charitable interests of theirs. Good friend and former President of Malrite Communications Dennis Barrie believes the foundation made perfect sense. “Milt and Tamar possess a fundamental curiosity and concern about different aspects of the world and finding ways to make it better,” says the 2012 Arts Prize winner. “They always confer as a couple on what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.”
After getting the iconic Rock Hall built on Cleveland’s lakefront, Milt and Tamar turned their attention to other museum projects, including the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, for which Tamar serves as President of the Board of Trustees. Motivated by his NSA experiences, Milt conceived and developed the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, with a great deal of research and design input from Tamar. “Most Americans don’t understand the workings or the importance of intelligence to our country, so that was my reason to create this museum,” Milt explains.
More recently, their foundation gave the Cleveland Orchestra $20 million to endow the Center for Future Audiences that brings young people to Severance Hall to hear classical music. “It’s been very rewarding to see what those dollars have become,” Tamar says. “To see young people at Severance Hall like never before – and we’ve Milt + Tamar Maltz had season tickets since we moved to Cleveland – has been great.”
The foundation also presented the Cleveland Museum of Art with $10 million to fund the Gallery One interactive technology project. “Milt is on our board, and he had the extraordinary vision to see that the Gallery One space could be something unique among world museums,” says David Franklin, director, CMA.
Currently, the Maltzes are overseeing their contributions of time and financial support to two key projects: the $12 million renovation of the historic Temple-Tifereth Israel that will feature a new Performing Arts Center for CWR U, and the International Agricultural Training Center that will be built in the Negev Desert of Israel. The Maltzes are also intimately involved in a leadingedge medical and mental illness research organization they co-founded, the Brain and Behavior Foundation in New York. To list all of their accomplishments and honors, along with all of the beneficiaries of their exceptionally generous philanthropy would require several pages. However, here are a few more: Milt is a member of the National Association of Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame, former Chairman of the Finance and Investment Committee of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, and a trustee of the Cleveland Play House. Tamar has served on the Board of Directors for the Montefiore Home and the Friends of the Library at Siegal College, and she now serves on the boards of the National Association of Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Dennis Barrie sums it up best: “Milt and Tamar really are an incredible treasure for this community.”