Art patron Ruth Perelman, 90, died yesterday in Philadelphia. With her husband of 70 years, Raymond G. Perelman, she was among the city’s most generous philanthropists, donating funds to institutions in medicine, education and culture. She was widely considered to be the quiet force, with a more laid back public persona than her husband, but no less passionate.
In a 2007 profile of the couple in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Raymond was described as “a no-nonsense workaholic, a pistol who by his estimation, has ‘bought and sold between 30 or 50 companies.” By contrast, Ruth was described as “more retiring, comfortable letting her husband hold center court, but quick to correct him when she disagrees.” Asked about her husband’s success, she told the newspaper, “I had a clue, though I had no idea he would be this successful. He just felt he had to do these things. It’s a fire in his belly.”
Their son Ronald Perelman is just as tenacous, as the famed chairman of Revlon.
Born in New Haven, Conn., Perelman attended the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She met Raymond in Greensboro. They married in 1941 and moved to the Philadelphia area.
Among the recipients of the Perelmans’ largesse is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which received $15 million to expand into a building across the street, now called the Perelman Building. It opened in 2007. “Ruth was an enlightened philanthropist and devoted friend and supporter of arts, education, and health causes throughout the region,” Museum Director and CEO Timothy Rub told A.i.A. “Elegant, wise, civic-minded, and committed to helping people in need, Ruth was a full partner with her husband Raymond in the couple’s philanthropy which helped transform so many Philadelphia organizations.”
The couple also established the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Education Foundation, Inc., which supports Jewish cultural and welfare organizations, and recently gave $225 million to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Her survivors include her husband and their sons, Jeffrey and Ronald Perelman.