The Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University is preparing to celebrate the life of Long Island real estate developer and philanthropist, Erwin Staller. A memorial service has been set for April 27 at the venue to remember the SBU benefactor who died Feb. 11, at age 97, at his Lloyd Harbor home.
“Over the years, Erwin Staller’s commitment to the center and to the university was steadfast,” said Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center. “He, along with his wife Pearl [affectionately called Freddie], his son Cary and the extended family, has been a true supporter of the arts and has been the foundation of the center’s success.”
After his father’s death in 1987, Staller and his family donated the first seven-figure gift to SBU of $1.8 million. The donation resulted in the establishment of The Staller Center for the Arts in memory of his parents, Max and Mary Staller. The developer received the Stony Brook Medal for Extraordinary Service in 1989 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters at SBU in 2001. He also served on the Stony Brook Foundation board of trustees for more than 30 years and was founding chair of Stony Brook Foundation Realty.
“It was always a pleasure to have him and Freddie in the audience knowing how much he enjoyed all kinds of performances,” Inkles said. “As a philanthropist, adviser and friend to the arts, the university and to the region, he will be greatly missed.”
In a letter sent to SBU faculty after Staller’s passing, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the initial donation of $1.8 million helped “create a foundation for the Staller’s legacy of philanthropy at Stony Brook University spanning 35 years.” Staller and his wife also funded Staller Scholars, which provides scholarships for graduate music students pursuing doctorates in the Department of Music.
The university credits Staller for championing a project to have a campus hotel for more than 23 years until its fruition in 2013. As a result, the roadway between Hilton Garden Inn and the Administration building will be dedicated as Erwin P. Staller Way.
Stanley said Staller, his wife, family and friends joined together in supporting the Staller Center’s mission, and to date they have contributed more than $16 million to fund various programs.
“As we reflect on Erwin’s myriad contributions in time and treasure to benefit our students, faculty, staff and our community, though I will miss him dearly, I am inspired by Erwin Staller’s vision and focus, and in the knowledge that his powerful legacy will live on at Stony Brook for generations to come,” Stanley said.
Staller was raised in Hempstead where he graduated from Hempstead High School. He attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania before enlisting in the U.S. Army and served in the Signal Corps during World War II. In 1946, Staller married Pearl Friedman, whom he had dated in high school, and the couple had five children.
In the late 1950s, Staller and his father co-founded Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, and became among the first entrepreneurs to develop retail shopping centers on Long Island. A supermarket, drugstore and a U.S. Post Office anchored each of their early shopping centers. Together, the father-son duo developed numerous shopping centers, office and industrial buildings on Long Island and in Connecticut.
Staller is survived by his wife, four children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren.
The memorial service will be held April 27 at 1 p.m. The Staller Center is located at 100 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.