Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, wrote to the campus community on Monday, September 19, 2022 with the sad news of the passing of Dr. Richard Basch. Basch is survived by his loving wife Barbara, a son, daughter, and two granddaughters.
Richard and Barbara both grew up in a suburb of Boston where their parents were neighbors. They started dating and married a year later and were married for 58 years. In 1979, they moved to Sarasota living for a few years on Siesta Key, before moving to their current home in east Sarasota. Basch worked as a radiologist for over 50 years in Sarasota before his retirement.
In 1993 he and Barbara jumped head first into the world of studio art glass and began collecting and traveling the world to visit the studios of Chihuly, the Venice Masters, and so many others.
Having become involved with the College while serving on the Board of Ringling College’s Sarasota Museum of Art (now Sarasota Art Museum), the Basches made a monumental, two-fold philanthropic gift in 2009 that forever changed the fabric of Ringling College of Art and Design. The first part of their commitment was at that time the largest philanthropic gift ever made by individual donors in the College’s then-78-year history. The second part was donating their extraordinary, world-class collection of over 300 glass art objects exclusively to Ringling College. These items will come to the College after both Richard and Barbara pass. Various pieces from the Basch collection have been exhibited annually at the College in the Richard and Barbara Basch Gallery and Barbara leads a weekly tour each year while the exhibit is on display that has become a must-see on campus for the Sarasota community and beyond.
Several years later in 2014, the Basches announced another very generous gift that was instrumental in erecting the nearly 40,000-square-foot Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center. This building now houses a hot and cold shop for glassmaking, a wood shop, a “makerspace,” photography labs, a printmaking and letterpress studio, the Lois and David Stulberg Gallery, and classrooms. Of this incredible building, at the unveiling Basch said, “This building is an example of unintended consequences that have become consequential. We started this building out as a glassblowing facility, maybe 1,500 square feet. That didn’t fly, so now we have this,” he said with a smile. “Unintended consequences became consequential.”
Thompson had this to say about Basch: “I am so sad about Richard’s passing. He was a great friend, a confidant, an adviser, an active participant in Ringling College’s governance, and a beloved supporter of Ringling College. He and his wife have truly transformed the College forever. They have had an indelible impact on the students, past, present, and future, and are the true epitome of what inspiration and dedication can achieve through philanthropy.”
Basch was an active member of the Ringling College Board of Trustees and more recently, an Honorary Life Trustee of the College. He was a member of the original Board of Directors for the Sarasota Art Museum, and, of course, an incredible friend to the College and the local arts community. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of arts degree from Ringling College at the opening of the Richard and Basch Visual Arts Center on March 10, 2017.
He will be deeply missed by all of us at Ringling College and we are forever grateful for his inspirational leadership and support. The Ringling College flag will be lowered to half-mast for several days and the College plans to hold a celebration of life on campus to honor his and his legacy. Further details will be forthcoming. Our sincere condolences are with the Basch family during this difficult time.