May 2020: Robert S. Tancer

Posted By on May 7, 2020
Robert Tancer with his wife, Shoshanna

This month we are honoring the beloved former board chair of Arizona Opera, Robert S. Tancer, who passed away on March 17, 2020. We hope you will enjoy these tributes in his honor from three of his friends in the arts community.

From Joseph Specter, president & general director of Arizona Opera:

Bob was one of the most remarkably kind people, and his smile instantly put you at ease in any circumstance. Whether it was speaking at a board meeting, an event or at a lunch with friends to talk about support for Arizona Opera, it was Bob’s smile that communicated his gratitude and kindness so immediately and so clearly, and made any conversation enjoyable …even when the topic was fundraising.

I remember Bob’s answer to the question, “What is your favorite opera?”…to which Bob always answered something along the lines of “The one I’m listening to right now.” He had a unique ability to be grateful and appreciate life just as it was, at that very moment. Bob’s memory to anyone who knew him is a gift of presence and living fully in the moment.

From Shelley Cohn, fellow Desert Botanical Garden board member:

Bob and I shared a love for truly getting our hands dirty at the Garden. We both started our engagement at the Garden as horticulture aides and helping the staff take care of the plants. In addition to his hands-on work, Bob served on every committee and in every leadership position.

In his understated and quiet way, Bob was able to introduce important ideas to the organizations he served; whether it was diversity, new programming or ways to support the financial health of the organization. He was the first former trustee who had not been president of the Garden to be given emeritus status. That status was recognition of his quiet passion and determination to contribute to the health of the arts/culture ecology of the community.

From Adrienne Schiffner, longtime friend of Shoshana and Robert:

Bob was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word — always warm, gracious and wonderfully cultured. He knew so much about music and opera and was highly respected and esteemed in the opera world throughout the United States. There are not many like him and his passing is felt by everyone who loves the arts in this community and around the globe.

In memory of Robert Tancer’s remarkable contributions to Arizona Opera with his wife Shoshana, the company announced in April 2020 that the courtyard of the Arizona Opera Center in downtown Phoenix will henceforth be known as the Shoshana B. and Robert S. Tancer Plaza.

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