Nanette Frances Steinhauser Mayer, 94, passed away Friday, March 9, 2018, in Miami, Florida. She was a founding member and lifelong supporter of An Appalachian Summer Festival and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University. She and her husband, Budd — both honorary alumni — gave of their time as well, serving on boards for both the summer festival and the Turchin Center.
“Appalachian has been proud to claim the Mayers as valued members of the university family for more than 25 years,” Chancellor Sheri Everts said. “Through their family’s foundation, they generously supported a broad cross section of important arts and humanities programs.”
A West Wing gallery in the Turchin Center bears the Mayers’ name and displays works by nationally and internationally renowned visual artists, as well as many of the finest artists of the region.
The Mayers set a high bar for philanthropy. In addition to their support of the arts at Appalachian, many other areas on campus have benefitted from their generosity, including the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies, Belk Library and Information Commons, the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Hayes School of Music and the Yosef Club.
In 2012, both Mayers were awarded honorary doctorate degrees. Honorary degrees are awarded for broad support of university programming that has made a difference in the lives of students and the quality of life for residents across the High Country.
An art-centered life
Nanette Mayer was born in 1924 in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where her father, Si Steinhauser, was a well-known newspaper columnist. She had many fond memories of a happy childhood spent amongst luminaries like Tommy Dorsey and Frank and Nancy Sinatra, who knew her father.
She is preceded in death by her husband, who passed away in 2016. The couple married in 1945, following his service in the Special Services of the Air Corps during World War II. They were married for 70 years. The Mayers moved to Arlington, Virginia, and then Baltimore, Maryland, where their daughter, Riki, was born. Two years later, the Mayers moved to Miami, Florida, where their son, Robert, was born in 1952.
Nanette Mayer served as her husband’s right hand as he built a highly successful business, but the arts were never far from the center of her life. A lover of dance, she served as an Arthur Murray ballroom instructor, and later opened an interior design firm, building on her keen artistic instincts and an impeccable sense of style, to create exquisite design plans and physical spaces.
Following retirement, the Mayers divided their time between homes in South Florida and the mountains of North Carolina.
Reflecting on her friend’s life, Denise Ringler, director of arts engagement and cultural resources at Appalachian, said, “Nanette surrounded herself with art and music that brought joy to her life and focused her energy on what really mattered: the people around her. Her progressive worldview was sparked by an intellectual curiosity and love of learning that remained with her throughout life and ignited her passion for philanthropy and social responsibility.”
Nanette Mayer is survived by her daughter, Riki Alexander, and her grandson, Taro Alexander; Robert Mayer and his wife, Pat, along with their children, Andy, Daniel and Kevin Mayer; as well as eight great-grandchildren.
About the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts
Located on 423 W. King St. at the crossroads of campus and community, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University engages visitors in dynamic and accessible exhibition, education, outreach and collection programs. These programs inspire and support a lifelong engagement with the visual arts and create opportunities for participants to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, and noon - 8 p.m. Friday. The center is closed Sunday and Monday and observes all university holidays. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. Learn more at https://tcva.appstate.edu/about/visit.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.