Remembering Richard Teitz: Art Expert and Prolific Marathoner

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Courtesy / Ellen Spangler

Richard Teitz during a run in Costa Rica.

Richard Stuart Teitz was a world-class marathon runner, an art expert, Peace Corps volunteer, Opera Guild supporter, teacher, fundraiser, world traveler, and diplomat. As a friend wrote on his Facebook page, he never stopped trying to save the world. As several others wrote, he was one of the most interesting men in the world.

“He always had a fascinating story to tell, and he didn’t have to ever tell the same one twice,” said Sally Seeker, a friend in the local running community. “I’ll miss hearing all the rest of the stories I never heard.”

His friend Kathleen Garrison, with whom he often went to Opera Guild and art events, said, “In the 21 years I knew him, I never heard him speak ill of anyone.”

At age 74, Teitz died of brain cancer on June 21. His life will be celebrated at a reception on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the McNay Art Museum, where his partner, Ellen Spangler, serves as a docent. Friends also organized a run from the San Antonio Zoo in his honor on what turned out to be the day he died.

After Teitz moved to San Antonio some 30 years ago, he briefly served as director of the Alamo, having been director of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, and the Denver Art Museum. He also served on the boards of the Opera Guild of San Antonio and the Yale Club of South Texas, and taught occasionally at Keystone Academy. Recently, he had begun to paint, what Spangler calls “fanciful art.” The Alamo asked him to create an art exhibit last year called “Do I Remember the Alamo?” that concluded its run on Aug. 1.

Teitz grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, and received degrees from Yale and Harvard, where he studied art history. Later in life he earned a masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Of his many interests and pursuits, the visual arts seem to have engaged him most. His eldest child, Rebecca Ackerman of Cresskill, New Jersey, said she is told she spoke Italian before English as she accompanied her parents on archaeological digs for Etruscan art in Italy.

One artist friend, Rex Hausmann, said Teitz’s knowledge had spurred artists into new dimensions of thought.

“He’d be in the middle of talking to someone in their studio and say, ‘Have you ever thought about Louise Bourgeois, or have you ever thought about this 14th-century poet, or read The Odyssey?,'” Hausmann said. “Many of these artists said later they didn’t know Richard well but [said], ‘When he came into my studio and talked with me, he would always tell me exactly what I needed to hear. He would always look at my work with a question, not an answer, and with affirmation.’”

Teitz and Hausmann, a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited at the McNay and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, became friends when Teitz signed on as gallery director for Hausmann Millworks: A Creative Community. “The Mill” houses artist studios, including Hausmann’s, and galleries on West French Place.

“I feel incredibly lucky to know someone of that caliber,” Hausmann told the Rivard Report, “someone so humble yet well-traveled. I mean, he was working on a microeconomics forum in Kenya at age 72. Then he said, ‘When I was with the Peace Corps …’ and I asked him, ‘How many lives have you lived?’ I loved about Richard that he would say these things in passing. He would never brag about anything.”

Courtesy / Ellen Spangler

Richard Teitz with friends in Panama.

A mutual friend told Hausmann to ask Teitz about his left little toe. When Hausmann inquired, Teitz casually explained it had been lost to frostbite when he was climbing to the base camp on Mount Everest in the 1970s.

In preparation for the trek, Teitz took up running and throughout his life ran 173 marathons. His determination through injuries and scares – daughter Rebecca was walking to meet him at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombs went off – has served as inspiration for younger runners. In Boston, he ran more slowly than planned or would have been at the finish line when the bombs exploded, his daughter said. It took several hours for father and daughter to reach each other and find that both were unharmed.

The outpouring of sorrow over his death by runners posting on Facebook shows he was admired and emulated by many.

Running, museum work, and his work as a management consultant, not to mention his love of learning, took Teitz to Chile, Kenya, Georgia, and Guinea, where he briefly taught. In 2011 he joined his sister, Louise Ellen Teitz, and her husband on a sailing trip across the Atlantic to the Azore Islands, off the coast of Portugal.

Teitz received his diagnosis of brain cancer in October, when in New York to see an exhibition. In recent months, he had to use two canes to walk. He told Hausmann he hated to be seen in that state.

“I said, ‘Richard, what are you talking about, man?” Hausmann said. “’You’re still Richard, you’re still who you are.’ And that brought a little twinkle back into his eye.”

Teitz is also survived by another daughter, Jessica Becker, and her husband, Travis, of Palo Alto, California, and son Alexander Teitz of Colorado.

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