Albert Bildner, 1915-2012
Albert Bildner, 1915-2012

Albert Bildner was a successful businessman and philanthropist. Born in New York in 1915, he was educated through high school there. A 1937 B.A. graduate from Yale University, he served in the United States Navy during World War II as a Lt. Commander. Following the war, Mr. Bildner attended Yale Graduate School from 1945-46, studying Spanish Literature and Drama.

After operating a family-owned chain of supermarkets in Long Island, Mr. Bildner left in 1948 to start a chain of supermarkets in Venezuela for the Rockefeller Brothers (International Basic Economy Corporation), the first in South America. Subsequently, he became an importer and food business consultant in Venezuela.

Mr. Bildner resided in Brazil from 1959-76, first as President of Crown Cork and Seal do Brasil; and later as founder of his own business, DRURY's S/A. That venture, started in 1960 with an investmentof just $10,000, became the largest spirits business in Latin America with annual sales in excess of $100,000,000 throughout South America, Europe and Asia. In 1973 he sold the business to Heublein Inc., and remained as a consultant until 1976.

In 1977 Mr. Bildner joined the not-for-profit Business Marketing Corporation for New York City, where he served as President from 1978 until 1979. In August 1978 he was appointed Special Ambassador by President Carter to attend the Inauguration of the President of Colombia.

Albert Bildner and colleagues

In 1982 he established and funded the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies at The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York. Since 1980, Mr. Bildner served on the Board of Visitors, now the Board of Trustees, of The Graduate Center. On May 26, 1994 he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the school.

Albert Bildner also served on the boards of numerous educational and cultural institutions including: Americas Watch, the Anti-Defamation League, Acción International, the Weitzman Institute of Science, Ben Gurion University and the American Place Theatre. For over three decades, he funded the Bildner Awards in Spanish and Portuguese Literature and a Travel Grant to Brazil at Yale University.

He spoke and read Spanish, Portuguese, and French fluently. Together with his wife Lin Bildner, they ran the Albert and Lin Bildner Foundation. Albert and Lin Bildner, along with their son Max, resided in New York City. He passed away in June of 2012.

Reflecting on Albert Bildner

Bildner Center director Mauricio Font wrote a heartfelt note regarding the passing of Albert Bildner on behalf of the center's staff.

New York, June 6, 2012

The Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies mourns the passing of Albert Bildner, whose many interests in Latin America led to the founding of our Center 30 years ago.

Albert made a difference in the lives of many people. To those fortunate to work with him at the Center, he was mentor and friend, as well as benefactor. We miss him greatly and somehow find some comfort that he will always be in our thoughts.

Albert had a long and full life. He had a passion for Shakespeare and Mozart, as well as for Spanish and Latin American literature and culture. Early in his life, his studies at Yale and his summer of 1937 visit to Mexico brought out his love of art and politics. He was greatly attached to Brazil, where he lived for twenty years and launched successful business ventures. His last event at the Bildner Center was one revisiting the work of Diego Rivera. To the end, his piercing mind was engaged in his widely ranging interests that also included social science and all forms of knowledge.

We mourn today and will miss him forever. We also celebrate a life fully lived and are thankful for the many lessons he gave us and for working with him to explore many issues in the study of the Americas.

We send our deepest condolences to his devoted wife Lin and son Max.

"Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

-- Bildner Center Staff

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

By Albert Bildner

Diego, Frida, and Trotsky

Albert Bildner reflects on his experiences with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky in this piece which originally appeared in the 2004-2005 issue of The Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies' newsletter "Bildner World."

Read the article