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Ruth Eckerd Hall Announces Former President & CEO Zev Buffman Passes Away At Age 89

Published: April 3, 2020

Susan Crockett, Ruth Eckerd Hall President & CEO, announced that former President & CEO Zev Buffman passed away from natural causes at the age of 89, on Wednesday, April 1, in Seattle, Washington.

Buffman joined Ruth Eckerd Hall in 2011, overseeing a $10 million renovation of the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater and the initial planning and fundraising for the $11 renovation of Ruth Eckerd Hall.  In addition, Buffman advocated for increasing arts education outreach in the community and the professional development of young artists. 

In making the announcement, Crockett said, “The entire Ruth Eckerd Hall family mourns the passing of a fearless leader.  Zev was a larger-than-life legend whose remarkable passion, creativity and energy shaped the Ruth Eckerd Hall of today.  We extend our deepest sympathy to Zev’s wife Vilma, children and family in their grief.” 

Ruth Eckerd Hall Chairman of the Board Mike Bollenback commented, “Zev’s passion for the arts was the driving force behind his commitment to move Ruth Eckerd Hall forward during his tenure as CEO.” Bollenback emphasized, “Zev’s tireless dedication to the organization will be evident for years to come.  On behalf of the entire of Board of Directors, our thoughts are with his wife and family during this sad time”.

A multi-Tony Award®-nominated Broadway producer, Buffman was responsible for the theatrical debut of Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes and the first Broadway run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  In addition to producing national Broadway tours, he was instrumental in southeastern Florida entertainment, having managed Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse, Ft. Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse and Miami Beach’s Jackie Gleason Performing Arts Center.  In 1988, Zev helped co-found NBA’s Miami Heat.  In 2003, Buffman became President & CEO of the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Kentucky.  

In October 2018, Zev announced his retirement from Ruth Eckerd Hall and relocated with his wife Vilma to the Seattle coast.