Ted Cutler, Boston philanthropist, businessman and arts patron, dies


BOSTON (JTA) – Ted Cutler, a philanthropist, businessman and visionary arts patron whose charitable giving included Jewish causes, hospitals and feeding the hungry in Boston and Israel, has died.

Cutler died March 30 of complications from a lung disorder. He was 86.

Cutler, who served in the early 2000s as board chairman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and also as a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is being remembered for his passion and devotion to the city where he rose from meager beginnings as the son of Jewish immigrants to become one of Boston’s most beloved and influential philanthropic leaders. Over the years he served on the board of a number of institutions, including Emerson College, his alma mater; Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and the Boston Ballet.

Over 25 years, Cutler and his late wife, Joan, donated tens of millions of dollars to human services, education, the arts and health care, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told the Boston Globe that “it’s a shame his very gentlemanly and old-fashioned manner and kindness won’t be with us anymore.”

Cutler led a $35 million campaign for a new building for the Greater Boston Food Bank that opened in 2009.

“Ted clearly articulated the moral imperative of Jews to give back, to make sure that the Jewish community would be there for those in need,” according to Steve Grossman, former Massachusetts state treasurer and a longtime leader and philanthropist in Jewish institutions.

As a teen Cutler, who played bass in a cowboy band, worked his way through Emerson College, graduating in 1951, and entered the world of business by booking bands. He branched out to the wider world of charter tours, entertainment, hospitality and conventions, where he earned his wealth. Among his business partners over the years was his childhood friend Sheldon Adelson; their joint ventures, with others, included the purchase of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

Cutler was a generous donor to CJP, Grossman told JTA, and when Grossman chaired AIPAC in the mid-1990s, Cutler supported a pivotal program, along with Adelson, that sent freshmen Republican congressional members to Israel.

Grossman, one-time leader of the Democratic National Committee, said Cutler, who had Republican Party leanings, recognized the importance of bipartisan support when it came to Jewish organizations and Israel.

Cutler’s lifelong passion for music and the arts transformed the city’s theater and arts world, notably leading the effort to restore the century-old 1200-seat Cutler-Majestic Theater, owned by Emerson.

As a spirited and energetic octogenarian, Cutler poured his creative instincts and millions of dollars of his personal wealth into “Outside the Box,” a free, city-wide, multi-day arts and music festival that he launched in 2013.

In a July 2015 conversation at the summer festival on the Boston Common, Cutler said he wanted the festival to be a professional platform for the city’s large pool of talented musicians and performers who are often relegated to synagogue and church basements.

But he especially aspired to offer Boston residents, especially its children and families – the chance to experience high-caliber arts and entertainment. He was troubled by the growing chasm between the have and have-nots in his city and other urban areas.

Cutler is survived by three children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


Recommended from JTA