The American Academy in Berlin mourns the loss of dear friend, advisor, and longtime trustee Nina von Maltzahn (née Gorrissen), who passed away peacefully on May 22, at age 81, in Punte del Este, Uruguay.
The daughter of Ellen Maria Gorrissen and granddaughter of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold, Nina von Maltzahn had been among the most devoted and generous supporters of the American Academy in Berlin. Her commitment to the institution was extraordinary — from lively Academy dinners at her Potsdamer Platz apartment to her support and promotion of concerts at the Academy performed by musicians from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, from her involvement in the horticulture of the Academy’s grounds to her oversight of architectural renovations at the Hans Arnhold Center and, not least, her underwriting of the semi-annual presentation of Berlin Prize Fellows, among much more.
Born in 1941 in New York City, Nina Maria von Maltzahn attended The Hewitt School. At age 15 she moved to Switzerland and finished her studies at Kirche und Kloster der Ursulinen. In 1970, she married and moved to Montevideo, Uruguay. Thirteen years later, she divorced and returned to Switzerland but kept a property on the Laguna del Sauce, convinced that she would return to Uruguay. A language polyglot who spoke seven languages, von Maltzahn worked in marketing for the company Leading Hotels of the World.
Baroness von Maltzahn had strong philanthropic interests focused on education and music on three continents. In the United States, she served as chairwoman of the board of Curtis Institute of Music, where she established the guitar department, string quartet program, and Curtis on Tour, a global touring initiative. In Germany, in addition to her support of the American Academy, von Maltzahn was the founding benefactor of the Royal Garden Academy in Berlin, a groundbreaking horticultural institution, and also served on the board of Sing Akademie Berlin, the oldest mixed choral association in the world. Von Maltzahn is also the founder of One Child, One World, in Athens, Greece, a community-based organization she established to improve the well-being of children and their families through programs aimed at urban Athens neighborhoods. In Uruguay, she was the founder and president of the Fundación Retoño, a nonprofit organization in Montevideo aimed at addressing the needs of underprivileged children through education. The foundation began with a small educational outreach center, Centro Espigas, and today works with 500 children, from infancy to age 12. The foundation later created a full-time, free secondary school, Liceo Espigas, currently serving the needs of nearly 300 students. Fundación Retoño also established a medical and dental clinic on the premises, which provides care to 600 students and their families, and it also donates to a Cochlear Implants Program for children, including surgery and rehabilitation treatment.
A vocal proponent of global health, von Maltzahn established an observership fund for young pediatricians to attend the Visiting Clinicians program at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, and had made personal donations to the Hospital Pereira Rossell, especially to the children’s burn and reconstructive surgery units. In Montevideo’s cultural scene, von Maltzahn has contributed to the upgrade of the sound system and drapery of Uruguay’s most important theater, Teatro Solis, among many other contributions.
All of von Maltzahn’s foundations and organizations are endowed so that they may continue with their work. In 2016, upon her departure as longtime board chairwoman, von Maltzahn was granted an honorary doctor of musical arts honoris causa.
Nina von Maltzahn is survived by her husband, Lothar von Maltzahn, his three children and five grandchildren, and by her cousins Michael Kellen and Marina Kellen French and their adult children.
We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.