The Detroit Institute of Arts has announced a $1.71 million bequest from former art teacher and museum shop volunteer Elizabeth Verdow.
Verdow, who died in June 2014 at the age of 86, stipulated in her will that $1.26 million of the gift be used for acquisitions of contemporary painting and sculpture and that $450,000 be applied to the museum’s operating endowment. DIA will honor Verdow’s legacy by establishing the "Elizabeth Verdow Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund." Verdow taught art in the Detroit Public Schools system her entire career and volunteered at DIA from 1990 to 2009.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Verdow told DIA officials in 2003 that she was going to leave the museum a gift but never indicated its size or scope. The museum was essentially the sole beneficiary of the estate, as Verdow never married and had no children. "She was the quietest and most unassuming person I've ever met as a volunteer," former gift shop manager Anna Helkowsky told the Free Press.
"We are humbled by Elizabeth's longtime dedication...and support," said DIA director Salvador Salort-Pons. "She enriched the lives of countless visitors during her nineteen years of volunteer service, and her gift will help enhance our contemporary art collection, greatly benefiting our community. We are so inspired by her philanthropy and civic commitment. She has set a very high example for all, and her legacy will live on for years to come."