The American Academy in Berlin mourns the passing of Anna-Maria Kellen, who died in New York City on Sunday, April 9, 2017, at age 98.
Mrs. Kellen’s philanthropic support of the American Academy—housed in her childhood home—has been a cornerstone of the institution and its programming.
Mrs. Kellen is survived by her two children, Marina Kellen French and Michael M. Kellen; four grandchildren, Andrew Gundlach, Annabelle Garrett, Christopher Kellen, and Caroline Kellen; and eight great-grandchildren. The Academy’s board of trustees, management, and staff extend their deepest condolences to the extended Kellen-Arnhold family.
Mrs. Kellen was born in Berlin in 1918. She attended the Mommsen Lycée and continued her studies at the University of Lausanne, the École de Louvre, and the Sorbonne. Nazi Germany forced her to flee, with her family, to New York, where she was reunited with her future husband, Stephen M. Kellen, whom she had met and courted in Berlin and Wannsee. The two married in New York City in 1940.
Stephen and Anna-Maria Kellen were the force behind the transformation of Anna-Maria’s childhood home into the American Academy in Berlin. After being contacted by former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Holbrooke and Professor Fritz Stern, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen immediately grasped the importance of America having a lasting presence in Berlin. The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation and members of the Kellen-French family have remained the Academy’s chief benefactors since the institution opened its doors, in 1998.
Anna-Maria Kellen provided abiding support for the Academy’s programming, including the funding of the Anna-Maria Kellen Berlin Prize, and generously contributed to the upkeep of its grounds and gardens. Her care for the American Academy was also expressed in more subtle ways: from her selection of the Academy’s logo to her meticulous arrangement of centerpieces at a Carnegie Hall dinner gala for the Academy in 2007. The Academy is honored that Anna-Maria Kellen’s legacy of giving and oversight continues today through her daughter, Marina Kellen French, son, Michael M. Kellen, grandson Andrew Gundlach, and niece, Nina von Maltzahn, daughter of her sister, Ellen Maria Gorrissen, who all serve as Academy trustees.
Anna-Maria Kellen’s history and support of the American Academy in Berlin is but one small example of her enormous civic and cultural philanthropy: she was the chairman of the Third Street Music School Settlement, a regent of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and an honorary trustee of the Parsons School of Design and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was on the Cancer Research Institute board of trustees from 1962 to 2009, served as a member of the City of New York’s Commission for Cultural Affairs from 1978 to 1988, and was also a co-chair for the New York Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture from 1983 to1988. A fellow of the Frick Museum, Anna-Maria Kellen also served as a member of the Director’s Roundtable of the Morgan Library, The Circle of The National Gallery of Art, the Chairman’s Council of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Metropolitan Opera, and L’Association des Amis des Art Decoratifs, in Paris. In Berlin, she was well known for her financial support of the Berlin Zoo, the Französisches Gymnasium (her husband’s alma mater), and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Mrs. Kellen received international recognition for her philanthropic and cultural leadership. She was the recipient of a Spirit of the City Award from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an award of honor from the Parsons School of Design, the Distinguished Service Medal from The New School for Social Research, and was made a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts des Lettres by the French Republic. In 2009, she received the Verdienstorden des Landes Berlin, from then-governing mayor Klaus Wowereit.