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Former Ruth Eckerd Hall CEO Zev Buffman Dies At 89

Zev Buffman smiling
Zev Buffman served as president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall fromo 2011-18.

Zev Buffman, a former president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall who was instrumental in the Clearwater facility’s growth and expansion over the last decade, has died.

He was 89.

Buffman died of natural causes Wednesday in Seattle, according to a news release.

Buffman oversaw planning and fundraising for Ruth Eckerd Hall after joining in 2011. He spearheaded an $11 million renovation of the facility, as well as a $10 million renovation of the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater.

“The entire Ruth Eckerd Hall family mourns the passing of a fearless leader,” Susan Crockett, Ruth Eckerd Hall president and CEO, said in the release. “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.”

Prior to joining Ruth Eckerd Hall, Buffman was a Broadway producer, winning numerous Tony Awards and also producing national Broadway tours.

He also helped establish several entertainment facilities in south Florida, including the Jackie Gleason Performing Arts Center in Miami Beach.

Locally, Buffman was a driving force in developing young artists and helping to increase arts education outreach.

“Zev’s passion for the arts was the driving force behind his commitment to move Ruth Eckerd Hall forward during his tenure as CEO,” Ruth Eckerd Hall board chairman Mike Bollenback said in the release. “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.”

Buffman retired and moved to Seattle with his wife in 2018.

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