Adam Max, an investment manager who became a leading patron of Brooklyn cultural institutions, notably the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he had been board chairman since 2017, died on July 27 at his home in East Hampton, N.Y. He was 62.
The cause was bile duct cancer, his wife, Diane Max, said.
Mr. Max was captivated by the venerable Brooklyn Academy after he and Ms. Max were given a gift subscription as a wedding present in 1985. The couple’s gifts to BAM would become the largest by individual donors in its history, according to the academy (though it declined to divulge the amount).
Mr. Max went on to be a major benefactor of St. Ann’s Warehouse, the performance space now in Brooklyn Bridge Park. And he and his wife were instrumental in the establishment of the New-York Historical Society’s Center for Women’s History, which opened for research and exhibitions at the society’s headquarters in Manhattan in 2017. The couple also sponsored the Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History there.
Originally an aspiring actor, Mr. Max taught children’s theater as a Brown University student in Providence, R.I., performed as a mime during a gap year with a theater group, and inveighed against British taxes as a costumed character on a Boston Tea Party tourist attraction ship before joining the Jordan Company, a private New York equity firm, in 1986.
“In a moment of self-realization,” he once said, “I decided the role of enthusiastic audience member suited me best.”
Adam Edward Max was born on July 18, 1958, in Manhattan to Herbert B. Max, a lawyer, and Dorothy (Seletsky) Max. As a child he attended performances at the Brooklyn Academy with his mother. After graduating from the Collegiate School in Manhattan, he earned his bachelor’s degree in literature and society at Brown in 1981.
He married Diane Peterson, a former chairwoman of Planned Parenthood of New York City, in 1985. She survives him, along with their children, Hannah, Jonah and Ezra; and his brothers, Daniel and Eric.
Mr. Max joined BAM’s board in 2003 and became vice chairman in 2008. Katy Clark, the Academy’s president, described him as “voracious in his appetite for solving problems.”
He was credited with playing a significant role in the opening last fall of BAM Strong, an expansion, including a visual art exhibition space, designed to unify the academy’s facilities, along Fulton Street in the Fort Greene section.
Mr. Max and his wife headed the Next Stage Campaign, which raised more than $30 million for its endowment as BAM celebrated its 150th anniversary.
But Mr. Max’s affinity for BAM was about more than bricks and mortar or balance sheets. He even appeared briefly in a performance of Geoff Sobelle’s “Home,” which The New York Times described as a “hallucinatory performance piece” at BAM’s Harvey Theater in 2017, when he answered a call from the stage for volunteers in the audience to join the cast.
Mr. Sobelle said he felt indebted to Mr. Max. “I’ve never had anyone seek me out, to begin a meaningful conversation with me, to actively take a vested interest in my life as a performing artist, and do all of that on their own accord,” he wrote in an email. He added, “He told me that he saw in me a path that he hadn’t taken.”