Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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zeckendorfNancy and Bill Zeckendorf

Honored October, 2011

Nancy and William 'Bill' Zeckendorf

Nancy and Bill Zeckendorf have lived in Santa Fe since the early 1980s, contributing their remarkable expertise to many organizations, including the Santa Fe Opera, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, Christus St. Vincent Hospital, and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design—making Santa Fe a better place for all.

Nancy loved music and knew she wanted to be a dancer at a young age. She made her way to Juilliard in New York City and became a ballet dancer for the Metropolitan Opera. In the early 1960s, Nancy came to Santa Fe as a ballerina in the Santa Fe Opera.

Bill was born in New York City in 1929. His father was a well-known real estate developer.  After schooling, and service in the U.S. Army in Korea, Bill joined his father in business. Their ambitious projects in major cities employed great young architects like I.M. Pei. Bill continued his father’s passion for architecture through his own building projects.

Nancy met her future husband through Bill’s mother, who had seen her dance at the Santa Fe Opera. Nancy and Bill developed a successful real estate business in New York, and moved part-time to Santa Fe. Their local real estate projects include Los Miradores, the Eldorado Hotel, Hotel Santa Fe, and Sierra del Norte.

Nancy joined the Santa Fe Opera board, serving as chairperson for 13 years. She initiated the annual fundraiser, the Gala Opening Celebration, and was instrumental in raising $20 million for the Opera’s open-air Crosby Theatre.

Bill and Nancy worked together on the Lensic Theater project. Nancy spearheaded the challenge to raise $9 million to renovate the theater. “All the money came from this community,” she said proudly. Bill has been instrumental in helping the nonprofit Lensic Center purchase the property from the original owners.

As a Trustee at the former College of Santa Fe, Bill helped guide its transition to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. He also served on the board at St. Vincent Hospital, helping to create the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. Colleagues noted Bill’s creative genius in guiding these institutions through change.

A friend said, “A few among us provide their time, knowledge, energy, wisdom, and financial support to a degree that puts them in a small class of exceptional contributors. Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf are in this class. Santa Fe has truly been the beneficiary of their vision.”

Story by Barbara Harrelson

Photo © 2011 by Genevieve Russell