If the lights in St. Louis seem a bit dimmer lately, it’s because a great source of energy is about to head elsewhere. Susan and Warren Gelman, active supporters of the arts and other nonprofits, are moving to Palm Springs, Calif. after more than 30 years in the Gateway City. “We raised our kids here and it seems like home to us, even though I was born in Miami and Warren’s originally from New Jersey,” Susan says. “We love it here, but the kids have scattered everywhere, and we’ll be closer to them in California.”
The Gelmans have opened their hearts and home to countless nonprofit organizations over the years, raising money and awareness for a long and diverse list of organizations, including Dance St. Louis, The Belle Center, Discovering Options, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Missouri Botanical Garden, Jazz St. Louis, Saint Louis Zoo, the History Museum and the Fox Foundation Board. “How can you say no when so many wonderful programs need help?” Susan asks.
The Gelmans have always been drawn to organizations that aid and educate underserved youth. “Luckily for us, St. Louis has world-class arts organizations that combine the arts and education,” Susan says. “Opera Theatre, for example, has an amazing artists-in-training scholarship program, and Jazz St. Louis has one of the country’s best programs for young musicians. There’s a wealth of talent here, supported by an amazing philanthropic spirit.”
The admiration is mutual. “The Gelmans have been there for me since I arrived at Dance St. Louis five years ago,” says executive director Michael Uthoff. “Susan was on our board, and she and Warren came to every performance. I often relied on their support and advice. But what I found most touching was, when I was new in town and didn’t know a soul, they always invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at their home. I’ll miss their energy—and Susan’s cooking.”
“Susan was more than a board member—she was a mentor to me,” says executive director Charmaine Smith of Discovering Options, an organization that delivers after-school programs to at-risk kids in St. Louis City. “The Gelmans believed in our mission absolutely. Their commitment is from the heart. They have a big, wide reach in the St. Louis philanthropic community, and were able to connect us to corporate and individual donors. I value Susan’s insight and support, and I’ll miss her.”
Executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford of Jazz St. Louis calls the Gelmans’ departure “the end of an era for us. Susan and Warren helped us grow from nothing to a thriving organization with a big portfolio of education and outreach programs. They know how to make things happen. They got us in front of the right people, and always gave generously of their own time and resources. We’ll always be thankful.”
Susan claims she and Warren are going to relax in Palm Springs. Warren, president of Kataman Metals, looks forward to playing lots of golf. “I’ve been trying to get him to take it a little easier for years, but he’ll still consult for Kataman,” Susan says. “I can see him teaching, eventually—there’s a college right across from where we’ll be living. I’d like to take a painting class—I used to teach art—and maybe learn Spanish. Gee, maybe I’ll teach a Latina child how to speak English, and she can teach me Spanish. That sounds like fun!”
Stand back, Palm Springs. You’re about to get hit by a power surge.