The Long Island community mourns the loss of philanthropist, businessman, father and Stony Brook Foundation trustee, Erwin P. Staller.
Staller passed away in his home last Monday, Feb. 11, at the age of 97. Seawolves may recognize the name from our very own Staller Center for the Arts, which was named in memory of Staller’s parents, Max and Mary.
The Staller family has been a friend to Stony Brook University for decades, having made a monumental donation of $1.8 million to the school in 1988. Staller was incredibly passionate about the arts and education, and his generosity toward our campus has elevated our campus and community.
“Erwin was a visionary philanthropist, one of Long Island’s most admired commercial real estate entrepreneurs, and a loyal and generous friend to Stony Brook University and the Staller Center for the Arts,” University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in a letter to faculty and staff.
Staller, his wife and their children are responsible for the “Staller Scholars” fund, which provides academic scholarships toward doctorate degrees in music.
In 1989, Staller was given a Stony Brook medal for Extraordinary Service, and, in 2001, Staller received an honorary degree from Stony Brook to commemorate his long-standing relationship with our university.
“Over the years, Erwin Staller’s commitment to the Center and to the University was steadfast. He, along with his wife Pearl (Freddie), his son Cary and the extended family, has been true supporters of the arts and have been the foundation of the Center’s success,” Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts, said.
A Hempstead High School graduate and WWII veteran, Staller spent his life working in his family’s company, revolutionizing real estate and businesses on Long Island since the 1950s. He would go on to serve more than 30 years on the Stony Brook Foundation Board of Trustees, gift over $16 million to Stony Brook University over the course of the years and beat the Guinness World Record for “oldest scuba diver” at 93 years old in 2014.
“He recognized early on the importance of a campus hotel to the University and surrounding community, and relentlessly championed this project for over 23 years until it came to fruition in 2013. That is why today, to further honor Erwin’s legacy at Stony Brook, the roadway between the Hilton Garden Inn and Administration is named “Erwin P. Staller Way,” Stanley said in the faculty letter.
Between weekly film showings, symphony and orchestra performances, concerts and student productions, there are countless opportunities to enjoy the gift that the Staller family gave our campus. It is because of the passion and philanthropic efforts of Staller and the Staller family that we are able to host musicians, composers, artists and performers from all over the world. The arts can never have enough promotion and support, in a world that never outgrows the need for the creativity, expression and escapism that mediums such as film, music, theatre, and fine art offer to all of us.
Staller is survived by his wife, Pearl Friedman, four children and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be announced soon to take place at the Staller Center.
“He was a dear friend who always encouraged my team and I to strive and reach for the stars. It was always a pleasure to have him and Freddie in the audience knowing how much he enjoyed all kinds of performances,” Inkles said. “As a philanthropist, advisor and friend to the Arts, the University and to the region, he will be greatly missed.”