"It is with profound sorrow that the administration, faculty, students, alumni, Governors, and Overseers of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion mourn the death of Audrey Skirball-Kenis, a beloved leader and benefactor of our institution," stated Dr. David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. "Audrey was a patron of art, culture, and higher education, whose vision found expression in her lifelong commitment to the mission of our institution."
Skirball-Kenis died on June 19 in California at age 87. It was Skirball-Kenis's recognition that a museum is central to the life and survival of a people that led to the creation of a network of museums across HUC-JIR's campuses: the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati; the Skirball Museum at HUC-JIR/LA and its expansion in the HUC-JIR Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; and the Skirball Center for Biblical Research and Museum at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.
Judy Lucas, curator of the Skirball Museum in Cincinnati reflected, "Audrey's presence will always be felt in Cincinnati. It is because of her support that our Museum is recognized as a cultural treasure in the region."
Her 38-year-long marriage to producer Jack Skirball launched her career as a philanthropist. Jack Skirball, a prominent film producer who had been ordained a rabbi at HUC-JIR, was responsible for securing the state charter for HUC-JIR's Los Angeles school in 1954. Together, they were the leading proponents and supporters of the development and growth of the HUC-JIR/LA campus, which was expanded and relocated to be adjacent to the University of Southern California in 1971.
Mrs. Skirball-Kenis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, to banker Otto Marx and was raised in New York. Her grandfather, Henry Mosler, was a prominent 19th century American artist whose works she extensively collected and documented in a major exhibition, "Henry Mosler Rediscovered: A Nineteenth Century American-Jewish Artist," which inaugurated the HUC-JIR Skirball Cultural Center in 1996.
Together with Charles Kenis, whom she married in 1987, her philanthropic generosity has provided major support for arts, medical, and other organizations in Los Angeles, New York, Jerusalem, and Oxford, England, including The Skirball Institution on American Values, New York University's Skirball Biomolecular Institute and Skirball Department of Judaic Studies, Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre, Center Theater Group, LA Music Center, LA Opera, LA County Museum of Art, University of Southern California Norris Cancer Research Center, Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies in England, and Taper's New Work Festival.