David A. Kipper, psychologist and Joffrey Ballet patron, dies at 71

December 5, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
Hedy Weiss


By profession, David A. Kipper was a clinical psychologist who, since 1995, held the position of Research Professor of Psychology at Roosevelt University's School of Psychology. His particular interests in the field involved role playing, psychodrama, small groups, experimental therapy, psychological trauma and the relation between emotional arousal and action.

It is in that latter category that an important key to Kipper's character can be found, for along with his wife, Barbara Levy Kipper, he was a passionate fan of dance. The couple rarely missed a performance by the Joffrey Ballet, and invariably you could see the glow of appreciation and pride on their faces following the company's opening night performances.

Mr. Kipper's love of the Joffrey Ballet dated back several decades, and was rooted in the deep friendship that existed between Robert Joffrey and Ruth Levy, Barbara Kipper's mother. In the 1990s, David and Barbara Kipper were among a group of Chicagoans that also included Bruce Sagan and Fred Eychaner, who were determined to move the then financially troubled dance company from its longtime home in New York to Chicago, and to assure that the troupe would become one of the jewels in this city's cultural crown.

Mr. Kipper, who served as president of the Joffrey board from 1992-98, as director of its Executive Committee from 1990-98, and was named its "Life Director' in 1998, died Thursday night in home hospice care, surrounded by his wife, his two daughters - Talia Kipper Ausiello of New Jersey and Tamar Jacoby of Chicago - and his sister, Nina Gruner, of Israel. He was 71. Mr. Kipper had been suffering from Merkel Cell carcinoma for nearly two years.

"David became involved with the Joffrey through Barbara," said Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, who is in St. Louis this week, where the company is performing 'The Nutcracker.' But once the decision was made that the Joffrey's future was to be in Chicago, he really took it upon himself to spearhead that future. And both he and Barbara did all they could to stabilize the company, with the trucks from Barbara's company [Chas. Levy Company, LLC, a major distributor of magazines and books in the U.S.], moving us lock, stock and barrel from New York to Chicago. The two of them were just incredibly generous to us in many ways.

"Even this fall, when he was quite ill, he came to our Balanchine-Robbins-Wheeldon program at the Auditorium, and told me how much he loved it."

Mr. Kipper, who was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, received his undergraduate degree in psychology at Israel's Bar Ilan University and earned his doctorate at the University of Durham in England. He began his academic career at Bar Ilan, and while at the university co-founded the school's Diploma in Music Therapy.

Prior to his appointment as professor at Roosevelt University, Kipper was associated with the University of Chicago.

Mr. Kipper, who was widely published in professional journals, served as a consultant to management in business and industry. In addition to the Joffrey, he was involved with the Anti-Defamation League, the America-Jewish Congress, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

"This is a tremendous loss for the city and me personally," said Fred Eychaner, current chairman of the Joffrey board. "David dared to dream the impossible dream of establishing a world-class ballet company in our city. My solace is that he lived to see the Joffrey flourish."

Wheater, who noted that one of the three main studios in the Joffrey Tower - the company's handsome permanent home in the Loop - was named for the Kippers, recalled that David's psychological training had a practical application early in his own tenure at the Joffrey.

"He was very helpful in telling me not to panic about the state of things," said Wheater. "He reminded me that the company had come a long way already, and though it was more than a half century old, it really was still a baby in terms of its life in Chicago."

In addition to his wife, daughters and sister, Mr. Kipper is survived by two grandchildren, Anya Rose and Eli.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Anshe Emmet Synagogue, 3751 N. Broadway. Donations in Dr. Kipper's name should be made to the Joffre