Barbara P. Katz, first woman president of the Maryland Historical Society, dies at 88

Barbara P. Katz was the first woman to serve as president of the Maryland Historical Society. (Courtesy of the Maryland Center for History and Culture)

Correction 2/18/2022: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Barbara P. Katz was the first woman to serve as president of the Jewish Museum of Maryland; E.B. Hirsh was the first woman president of the museum. The Baltimore Jewish Times regrets this error.

Barbara P. Katz, a Pikesville resident and the first woman to serve as president and chair of the Maryland Historical Society, now known as the Maryland Center for History and Culture, died Feb. 1 at 88.

A graduate of the Park School, she attended the Connecticut College for Women, now Connecticut College, according to the Baltimore Sun. She married Joseph J. “Jay” Katz, the owner and president of Martin Gillet & Co. Inc., in 1953. She was involved in The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She was a member of Har Sinai Congregation and later of Temple Oheb Shalom, which merged with Har Sinai in 2019.

Katz “will be remembered by many of us with great affection for her involvement not only with the [Maryland Center for History and Culture] but in our lives as well. … She was an invaluable friend and we will truly miss her,” said Mark Letzer, president and CEO of the organization, in a statement to trustees and staff.

In December, the Maryland Center for History and Culture board’s executive committee voted to name its fashion archives “The Barbara P. Katz Fashion Archives at the Maryland Center for History and Culture,” Letzer noted in the statement.

Katz was also a president of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, a role she served in from 1989-1991.

In an email, Nancy Kutler, president of JMM’s board of trustees, praised Katz’s passion and energy, while noting her support of the exhibits developed there.

Katz “was a key supporter of our recent exhibit on the scrap industry, to which she contributed in honor of her grandfather, industrialist Morris Schapiro,” Kutler said. “She was a devoted volunteer who will truly be missed.”

Katz also served for seven years as a volunteer board member at the Friends School of Baltimore, where Ashley Principe, the school’s director of development, remembered her as a dynamic person filled with energy.

“She had quite an artistic style in the way she dressed,” said Principe, a resident of Towson. “Her bright red hair, her bright red lips and bright red nails and her dark, black glasses, which I loved. She was very well educated. As a board member, she brought an amazing perspective to the table. When we were discussing, whether it was finances or curriculum, she always brought a unique perspective to the table.”

Katz was a donor to the school, and she founded an endowed fund to help students “above and beyond tuition,” Principe said. Katz also helped pay for tutoring for middle school students during the summer, and she supported the school’s art program and gallery, which is named in honor of Katz’s husband.

On what she most wants people to know about Katz, Principe said that she “had a huge heart, that she was willing to help in any ways that she could, and often she supported students financially whenever there was a need. She didn’t wait for someone to ask ‘What do you need?’ She was always like, ‘What’s the next thing that I can do to help?’”

Katz is survived by her son Jeffrey Katz of Sparks; daughters Deborah Katz of St. Paul, Minn., and Rebecca Katz of San Rafael, Calif.; and two grandchildren.

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