Samuel J. Savitz, 83, an actuarial executive who served on the boards of a dozen Philadelphia arts and culture groups, died Thusday, July 2, at his home in Bala Cynwyd. He had fought back various forms of cancer during the past two decades before finally succumbing to the disease, his family said.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Savitz began a series of stints as a board member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mann Center, Philly Pops, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and National Museum of American Jewish History, among others.
“He’s been so important to so many groups,” said Anne Ewers, president and CEO of the Kimmel Center, on whose board Mr. Savitz served starting around the time of its opening in 2001 until 2009.
“I love the arts,” said Mr. Savitz in a conversation just before his death. His wife, Selma, was a pianist and music teacher, “so it was something we shared a love for and we pursued it together,” he said. “It’s like why do you breathe? To stay alive. And music has kept me alive.”
The son of Russian-Ukrainian immigrants, Mr. Savitz was born and raised in West Philadelphia. His father worked for William K. Rodstein, “Big Bill,” owner of an amusement arcade on Market Street that the elder Savitz ended up buying. “I worked there as a kid when I was 12 years old until I graduated high school,” Sam Savitz said.
“I was one of four boys, all of whom were academics, all involved and engaged in the arts,” he said. “Joe was involved with the opera company, Ed was a music major at Penn.”
Young Sam became a runner, participating in the Penn Relays from the seventh grade to 11th or 12th grade. He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from Temple University in 1958, and landed a job as a pension analyst at provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. He served in the Army Reserve from 1954 to 1962.
Starting in 1964, he was president of Samuel J. Savitz & Associates, the pension and benefits consulting firm acquired in 1986 by Laventhol and Horwath, with which Mr. Savitz continued through the 1990s.
He became known as an expert in the field, lecturing and publishing widely, mostly on pension issues, and was a founding member of the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, serving as its president at one point.
After his retirement, Mr. Savitz took courses at the University of Pennsylvania on Mahler, Beethoven, Verdi operas, philosophy and history — “everything I felt I missed when I was a young man I tried to absorb.”
He found an arts community eager for his mix of skills.
The way he combined his “business acumen and his love and passion for the arts was superb,” said Ewers. From a business and fund-raising perspective, “He really had his finger on the pulse of the community.”
“He was the mensch-iest of mensches,” said Alan Luxenberg, former president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, where Mr. Savitz was a board member. He offered guidance and was active in recruiting new board members. “That was an extremely important way of building the institution,” said Luxenberg.
“He was very deeply engaged,” he said. “And of course, he was a patriotic American devoted to finding what was best to America’s national interest and being open to the idea that there are different interpretations and different views that you have to weigh.”
In addition to his wife of 62 years, he is survived by children Jacquie Stern, Steven Savitz, and Michelle McCormack; five grandchildren; and a great granddaughter.