March 19, 2015

Letter to the Editor: New Name for Avery Fisher Hall Will Honor Generosity and Inspire Others

Pablo Eisenberg’s column criticizing the planned renaming of Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center sadly misses the point that thousands of nonprofit institutions rely upon the generosity of donors for projects critical to their futures. Plans and dreams for organizations range far beyond bricks and mortar. They embrace a limitless number of educational and community-engagement programs that touch millions of people throughout the United States.

There is an important history in this country of large, named gifts that have helped to found and maintain many of our universities, public libraries, museums, and other essential institutions. When appropriate, we at Lincoln Center are delighted to provide public recognition through named spaces, named endowments, and the like. The presence of a name on a building, a major program or an endowment honors the generosity of the donor, along with his commitment to a cause of personal importance. This elevates the cause and offers tremendous ancillary value to an institution.

A $100 million gift, like the one David Geffen made to Lincoln Center, is a remarkably generous sum and would be transformative for any organization. Such generosity is the lifeline of our institution. Music lovers are excited about the revitalization of our largest concert hall, and additional gifts will now come in, inspired by Mr. Geffen’s giving. None of this would happen without his decision to very publicly support our cause.

If a donor wishes to have his or her name on the outside of a state-of-the-art cancer center, does that bother the patient who is now able to receive cutting-edge care? Is it less enjoyable to encounter a Picasso in a museum named after a philanthropist? In our case, Lincoln Center audiences will spend decades enjoying incredible performances in a completely re-imagined performing-arts venue made possible by a gift that is the impetus for a $500 million fundraising campaign.

There is only one appropriate sentiment to convey to donors who make enormous contributions to support the arts, sciences, education and other vital causes: extreme gratitude.

Jed Bernstein
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Katherine Farley
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts