Jan. 11--If Detroit still enjoys a world-class symphony orchestra today, a good portion of the credit belongs to businessman Alfred Glancy III, who in the 1990s restored the orchestra's financial health when the DSO teetered on extinction.
Rescuing the DSO was just one of the many roles played by Glancy, who at various times chaired the Detroit Medical Center board, the corporate leadership group Detroit Renaissance and the Michigan Consolidated Gas Co., now part of DTE Energy.
Glancy, 80, of Ann Arbor died Thursday, a spokesman at the Verheyden Funeral Home in Grosse Pointe Park confirmed.
Glancy was perhaps the best example in his time of a Detroit business leader who took on important civic roles. Besides his work with the orchestra, Glancy served as chairman of the Detroit Medical Center, the business leadership group Detroit Renaissance, the city's development agency Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the race relations group New Detroit Inc.
He also played roles as a board member with the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, the corporate group Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Institute of Arts; the United Way; the Hudson-Webber Foundation, and the Wayne County Airport Authority, among many others.
His business base was the Michigan Consolidated Gas Co., which he ran for many years before agreeing in 1999 to a merger with DTE Energy.
In the 1980s, he oversaw MichCon's partnership with the ANR company to build the Harbortown retail and residential complex on Detroit's east riverfront. Harbortown became one of the earliest of Detroit's waterfront revival projects and in many ways was years ahead of its time.
But it was the years he spent guiding the financial affairs of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra that may represent his biggest contribution to Detroit's cultural scene.
As former Free Press cultural affairs writer Mark Stryker wrote in 1998, "When Glancy, president and CEO of MCN Energy Group, was named board chairman in 1992, the orchestra was still fighting for its life, burdened by an accumulated deficit of more than $8 million and feeling the aftershocks from two musicians strikes in the 1980s.
"Working in tandem with former DSO Executive Director Mark Volpe, Glancy ran the organization like a business, respecting the art but refusing to spend beyond the orchestra's means -- thus re-establishing credibility within the fund-raising community."
Among other things, Glancy negotiated labor agreements with musicians, resolved the DSO's outstanding debt burden and raised money. Glancy and his wife, Ruth, personally donated $1 million to the orchestra.
It was a measure of the respect that Glancy gained with DSO musicians that when he was introduced at a party following the DSO's European tour in the late 1990s, orchestra members cheered wildly. "Most other orchestras would greet their board leaders with polite applause," Stryker wrote.
"I brought a business sense to the table but didn't fuss around with stuff I didn't know anything about," Glancy said then.
In a statement Friday, the DSO said it was "greatly saddened by the death of Chairman Emeritus Alfred R. Glancy III. Al joined the DSO board of directors in 1974, serving for an incredible 40 years including six as its chairman (1992 -- 1998). During his tenure as chairman, Al was a major factor in holding the organization together following a huge loss of funding from the State of Michigan in the early '90s, and he later led the board during the launch of the Orchestra Place development project in 1996, which began a period of much-needed revitalization in the area surrounding Orchestra Hall."
The DSO statement continued, "A generous, passionate, and action-oriented donor, Al helped all of us get our jobs done, both on stage and off, from box office and maintenance staff to our musicians. As a great believer in bringing the DSO to international audiences, he enthusiastically supported touring during his time on the board and was part of the 1998 European tour led by then music director Neeme Järvi.
"More recently, Al provided funding for the DSO to upgrade the technology of its new global webcast series, 'Live from Orchestra Hall,' and purchase remote-controlled robotic cameras. In 2014, his giving allowed the DSO to launch a reserve fund designed to address the ongoing capital needs of the orchestra. Since then, the Alfred R. Glancy III Capital Reserve and Technology Fund has supported a new phone system, traffic studies pertaining to the QLine, lighting upgrades in Orchestra Hall, stage floor repair and replacement, and webcast control room upgrades. In recognition for his support of its webcasts, the DSO named the control room in his honor.
"His commitment to the orchestra was previously recognized in 2002 when the DSO permanently named the Ruth Roby and Alfred R. Glancy III Principal Percussion Chair, currently held by Joseph Becker."
Glancy described himself as a native Detroiter "who has lived in all five Grosse Pointes." He came from Detroit business royalty; his father, Alfred Glancy Jr., was a prominent banker and real estate developer who once co-owned the Empire State Building in New York.
Glancy III received a BA degree in economics from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1962.
For all his involvement in civic causes, Glancy typified the business leaders who tried to steer clear of political controversies. Once, asked about whether new business investment taking place under then-Mayor Dennis Archer could have taken place under his controversial predecessor Coleman Young, Glancy demurred.
"You can't redo history," Glancy answered. "I tend to want to look forward rather than backwards. That's the only thing I can have an impact on."
Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.
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