BizPHILANTHROPY Count Ferdinand von Galen
Chair, Board of Trustees Arizona Aerospace Foundation
Delight in Flight
Count Raises $12 Million for Aviation Museums By Monica Surfaro Spigelman The sky’s the limit when it comes to what Count Ferdinand von Galen will do for Pima Air & Space Museum, the Titan Missile Museum and, ultimately, Pima County. Count von Galen joined the board of trustees of the Arizona Aerospace Foundation in 1997 and passionately led the transformation of the museums it operates. The count has a storied heritage – including two ancestors beatified by the Roman Catholic Church and the 12th century heraldic coat of arms symbolic of a northern Germany noble family. He could easily have been anything he wanted. Yet aviation became the core of his zeal. As a child he was spellbound by the bombers flying across the sky in World War II. That enduring fascination led him to become an international banker, aviation adviser, avid collector of aircraft and now the champion of Arizona’s air museums. The count may not be a pilot, but his soul soars as he strides around the 80-acre air museum – which he helped 148 BizTucson
make the third largest of its kind in the world, and one of a select few that operates in the black. “I have a lot of curiosity about history and the world around me,” Count von Galen said. “What we’re about at the museum is instilling that curiosity – as well as dreams of innovation and technology.” Inspiring future pilots, engaging supporters and educating the community – that’s the everyday commitment of Count von Galen. He’s a hands-on, engaged leader. He is legendary for his graceful ability to move from old-fashioned carousing with the veteran stick-and-rudder guys who are museum volunteers to negotiating the acquisition of rare aircraft from four-star generals or an Imperial War Museum. His efforts are increasing visitorship and that’s impacting the region’s tourism industry. “What we have is diversification – from rare war planes to unique commercial aircraft,” Count von Galen said.
When he joined the foundation’s Board of Trustees in 1997, both the Pima Air & Space Museum and the Titan Missile Museum were floundering. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which has a say in where important aircraft are placed, had doubts about what Pima Air & Space could handle. The count’s first task was to tackle the Titan visitors’ center at the site housing the nation’s last remaining Titan intercontinental ballistic missile. Eighteen months into his leadership, he had pulled together resources and collaborators, and cut the ribbon for the new complex, putting the landmark into its rightful historic and futuristic Space Age context. Then, the count ignited the interest of global collectors and philanthropists, wooing them with humor and conviction, gaining large monetary gifts and priceless acquisitions for Pima Air & Space and Tucson. Under his watch, 78 rare aircraft were added to the collection. More than $12 million in funding was brought in by the count, with 60 www.BizTucson.com
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