In Philanthropy: Hotel Heiress Seema Boesky Funds $20M Brain Institute and More

In an attempt to grow its lackluster philanthropic contributions, U.S. Soccer hires a fundraiser from the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

From the closure of one of Texas’ only photography-based non-profits to a renewed push for fundraising within U.S. soccer, here are some of the biggest developments in philanthropy to watch.

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Large castle-like building sites on field
Wayne State University’s Old Main academic building. MJ Murawka/Wayne State University

The end of the road for the Dallas Center for Photography

The Dallas Center for Photography (DCP), the only nonprofit in Northern Texas dedicated to photography, is closing its doors. The arts organization was born out of a series of photography classes offered in the 1990s, which later became a more structured program before turning into a nonprofit in 2018.

“I founded our organization as a place where those who create and those who appreciate photography could come together to learn, share, or just enjoy this art so many of us have made part of our lives,” said Peter Poulides, executive director of DCP, in a statement. The non-commercial gallery, which brought in thousands of visitors throughout the past five years, also offered nearly 80 classes, 43 workshops and 14 events last year.

“There is something broken in a system where nonprofits have to spend so much time scrapping for dollars while they deliver both critical services (health, food, legal…) as well as opportunities for personal creative growth in the arts,” Poulides told Observer via email, adding that “this is especially true in a city like Dallas, and Texas itself, where there is an abundance of wealth, but a severe shortage of the will to support the very organizations that give a city its soul.”

Even as DCP grew its roots in Dallas, an increasingly unmanageable gap between the organization’s resources and its financial needs appeared, according to Poulides, who stated that “shutting down was the responsible thing to do for the organization and our community.”

The nonprofit’s final exhibition, When We Speak, You Should Listen! showcased the work of seven Dallas-based female photographers and closed today (August 4). Its inventory, equipment and furniture will be sold in a “Going Out of Business” sale later this month.

Seema Boesky’s offers big-ticket support to Wayne State University

Meanwhile, over in Detroit, Wayne State University is receiving a new brain institute courtesy of philanthropist Seema Boesky. Her $20 million donation will establish the Ben L. Silberstein Institute for Brain Health, named after her late father, a real estate magnate who oversaw the Beverly Hills Hotel empire.

The center will focus on fast-tracking neurodiagnostic and treatment advances for brain disorders like addiction, depression and Parkinson’s disease, in addition to advancing understanding of brain illnesses and promoting brain health. Boesky has long been a supporter of Wayne State University, having previously funded the Gertrude Levin Endowed Chair in Addiction and Pain Biology at the university’s School of Medicine.

“My parents stressed that it was not enough to write a check,” said Boesky, who was formerly married to the infamous stock trader Ivan Boesky, in a statement. “The people I admire most lift their pens when they can, then do the heavy lifting by dedicating their lives, time and hard work toward making other futures brighter.”

The hotel heiress has channeled past charitable contributions to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, the Waterkeepers Alliance and the Caramoor Centre for Music and Arts. A prominent collector of French impressionist artwork, she also sold paintings by Monet and Renoir to fund a heart center at Northern Westchester Hospital, which opened in 2020.

U.S. Soccer taps the Guggenheim’s fundraiser

Major updates are also taking place within the inner workings of nonprofits themselves, with U.S. Soccer hiring Leah Heister Burton, a former fundraiser for the Guggenheim Museum, to help secure expanded funding for the organization. “Leah brings years of experience across a changing philanthropic landscape that will allow her to hit the ground running in building the relationships needed to solidify U.S. Soccer’s financial future as we prepare for 2026 and beyond,” said JT Batson, CEO of U.S. Soccer, in a statement.

Individual philanthropic contributions to U.S. Soccer (the official governing body of soccer in the U.S.) only make up less than 5 percent of the nonprofit’s current operating budget of $175 million, with the majority of its funding stemming from partnerships, events, media, consumer products and memberships. Burton’s new position as Chief Advancement Officer will entail expanding revenue across philanthropic communities as the soccer federation embarks on a capital campaign, according to U.S. Soccer.

Burton most recently worked at the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation as their Deputy Director and Chief Advancement Officer, overseeing the museum and foundation’s engagement with donors. She is additionally an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University, where she teaches a course on fundraising for nonprofits.

In Philanthropy: Hotel Heiress Seema Boesky Funds $20M Brain Institute and More