Bernard A. Zuckerman, 91: Namesake of Kennesaw State art museum opening in fall

When the Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University opens in September, more than Zuckerman’s name will be on the building. His fingerprints will be all over it.

“He would have liked to have cut the (opening) ribbon,” his wife Suzanne Siegel said. “He worked with the architects very closely and the museum reflects what he envisioned.”

Zuckerman’s first wife, Ruth, was a noted sculptor whose work had been shown in exhibitions around the globe. After she died in 1996, Zuckerman donated 100 of her sculptures to KSU, which will house them in the Ruth V. Zuckerman Pavilion, once the museum is completed. He later donated $2 million to the university’s $3 million museum project, ensuring her art would always be on display.

“He really wanted to find a place for his wife’s collection, where it wouldn’t get lost in a larger collection or find itself in storage,” said Catherine Lewis, executive director of museums, archives and rare books at KSU. “The gift of the Zuckerman Museum of Art really reshapes our museum program.”

Zuckerman died Friday from complications of a bacterial infection of the spine. He was 91. A graveside service was held Sunday at Greenwood Cemetery. Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care was in charge of arrangements. A second memorial event is being planned for September, during the museum opening, his wife said.

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Born in New York, Zuckerman served in the Army Air Force during World War II. Though he lacked a formal college education, he had a strong work ethic, Siegel said, adding, “He’d been working since he was six.”

In 1945, after his military service was complete, he returned to New York to work for Beltone selling Dictaphones in the Empire State Building, before he moved on to the carpet business. Zuckerman started as a salesman for a carpet manufacturer and by the 1970s, he and a business partner were manufacturing carpet in Georgia.

After he retired, he spent much of his time and money supporting various philanthropic causes. While Zuckerman wasn’t an artist in the same way his first wife was, he did have an eye for aesthetics, said daughter, Laura Bellon, of Oakland.

“He designed some really beautiful carpets,” she said. “He wouldn’t have put any attention on it. I don’t think he would have ever considered it art.”

His input on the construction of the museum also revealed a certain talent for artistic design.

“He was a contemporary thinker,” said daughter, Rowann Gilman of New York.

Zuckerman was also a man with much love to give. His devotion to the memory and artwork of his first wife was not a barrier to the 15-year relationship he had with his second wife.

“He loved two women in very different ways,” Siegel said. “He had the ability to love both of us in a way that I was never jealous of Ruth.”

In addition to his second wife and daughters, Zuckerman is survived by one granddaughter.

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