"Few leaders have impacted Baltimore as mightily, and meaningfully, as Lazarus. Lazarus changed the college and the city around it."
Baltimore magazine naming Lazarus "Best Legacy" in their August 2013 "Best of Baltimore" edition
Even Before President Lazarus Announced His Retirement, The Baltimore Sun had already given him an honorable mention as they considered him for 2012 Marylander of the Year, declaring that "Lazarus is transforming a section of Baltimore through his understanding of the connections among art, education, and community development." After his spring 2013 retirement announcement, more accolades came from near and far—from community partners, students, faculty, parents, staff, alumni, government officials, the academic community, civic leaders, and other supporters. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Lazarus legacy is his ability to touch such a diverse array of people in many different ways.
Often behind the scenes, Lazarus has helped guide, push, prod, motivate, negotiate, and educate partners to see the full picture—the MICA he believed would help make art and design education the impactful force he thought was critical—and how the College's growth could help create the central Baltimore he believed could and should exist. A leader of rare gifts, any given day could find him deeply involved in evaluating academic pedagogy, figuring out how to save a Baltimore City landmark, or lobbying the state legislature for more support for higher education. He has been a full-time college president, but also a real estate developer, social activist, community organizer, motivational speaker, coach, and mentor. He has served on more than 30 boards of directors, including those of the incredibly diverse array of organizations he helped to found, such as the Midtown Development Corporation, Central Baltimore Partnership, Baltimore Design School, and Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, to name a few.
"Under boyish, bow-tied Lazarus, who will step down after the 2013-14 academic year, MICA...helped launch an arts renaissance in Baltimore that has been felt from the biggest institutions to the smallest underground galleries."
City Paper, May 1, 2013 issue ranking Lazarus that week's most powerful person in Baltimore
As former president Eugene "Bud" Leake said when Lazarus was selected to succeed him, Lazarus seemed to be the "right man at the right place at the right time." In retrospect, his background matched up remarkably well with MICA's needs. Training in retail management at an early age, followed by an MBA education at Harvard Business School, gave him a profound understanding of business, asset management, and organizational behavior. A tour in the Peace Corps, followed by work in economic development in the nation's capital, forged in him a deep connection to the community and a commitment to empowering everyday people. And his work as a senior aide to the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts fueled a passion for supporting the arts that was already a Lazarus family tradition. But it was his seemingly endless energy, boundless optimism, and unstoppable flow of ideas that often won over those who would become his collaborators, partners, and fellow sojourners on his quest to make MICA great.
Lazarus has been able to mobilize the talent and resources needed to simultaneously pursue novel (and in some cases, revolutionary) initiatives on many fronts, and together they have positioned the College at the forefront of leadership in art and design education. Perhaps the most precious resource Lazarus has been able to marshal, however, is a repository of trust. Parents have trusted him to help guide their children's careers. Trustees, staff, and faculty have shown their eagerness to follow the direction he has set. Top artists and designers have bought into his vision of MICA as a place they can come to refresh their thinking as they work with students and faculty. Lovers of culture regularly return to the campus to indulge in the energy emanated by emerging artistic leaders the College is educating. Most important, students have trusted their president with their very futures, believing that his college is a place where they can begin to achieve their dreams.
Financial supporters, too, have partnered with Lazarus to help further common cultural and educational priorities, and state and local government officials have embraced his philosophies as serum to uplift communities, the City of Baltimore, and the State of Maryland. He himself has said that his vision could never have become reality without strong support from scores of partners who have become members of the MICA family.
From early partnerships with iconic Baltimore families like George L. Bunting, Jr. H'10 & Anne Bunting, Robert E. H'94 & Jane* H'94 Meyerhoff, and Alonzo G. Decker, Jr.* H'85 & Virginia Decker, to collaborations with supporters like Eddie C. & C. Sylvia Brown P'02, Charles E. Nearburg P'07, Betty Cooke '46 & Wm. O. Steinmetz '50, and Alice Falvey Greif & Roger L. Greif, Lazarus has developed and nurtured relationships that have moved the College ever forward.
In addition to those individuals, other individuals, foundations, and families have given a million dollars or more to support MICA and its initiatives over the three and a half decades Lazarus has been president, including Dana Edwards Nearburg P'07, The Starr Foundation, Florence Gaskins Harper* '34, Marcella Louis Brenner* W'32, H'01, The France-Merrick Foundation, Neil & Sayra Meyerhoff, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Rosalee '60 & Richard Davison, the Ben and Zelda Cohen Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Ruth Jenkins Bristor '35, Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, Harriet '67 & Philip Klein, the McMillan Stewart Foundation, Robert Austrian, The Rouse Company Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust, Fay Martin Chandler '67, Hoffberger Family Philanthropies, Gwen Davidson & Nancy Haragan, LeRoy E. Hoffberger H'12, The Surdna Foundation, Lois Blum Feinblatt, and David '66 & JoAnn Hayden.** Just as important, thousands of others have provided volunteer efforts, financial gifts large and small, advocacy, information, and goodwill to help the College gain international acclaim. As MICA's entire endowment was barely $1 million when he began his presidency, the investments these individuals and organizations have made in MICA are a testament to Fred Lazarus' ability to engender buy-in from a collective that represents a cross section of humanity.
In honor of the Lazarus legacy, the MICA Board of Trustees announced in spring 2013 the creation of the Lazarus Legacy Fund, which will raise $15 million to support Lazarus' priorities at MICA: Opportunity—ensuring that talented students of today and tomorrow can achieve their dream of a MICA education regardless of their own financial circumstances; Leadership-securing the resources to sustain the stature of MICA's graduate programs and seize new academic opportunities; and Community—enhancing MICA's many community engagement programs in Baltimore and beyond.
The extraordinary impact Lazarus has had on MICA, the City of Baltimore, education, and the arts in America can only be summed up in one word: legacy. And as the Baltimore City Paper put it as they paid tribute to him in May 2013, "Baltimore owes you, sir."
**In spring 2013, the MICA Board of Trustees authorized the creation of the MICA Legacy Society to pay tribute to persons or organizations who have donated a million dollars or more to MICA.