European by birth and upbringing—he was born in Sicily and educated in Switzerland and France—Marc von May decided in 1993 to continue his career as an investment advisor in the United States. “I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into… that’s normal,” he says, jokingly, about his immigration to the U.S.
Earlier, while working in France, he earned a French law degree as well as a doctoral degree in French business law, common law, and international management. After working for Nestlé and Citibank, he became a tax consultant. But health issues, including a heart attack linked to scarlet fever and smoking, caused him to reassess his priorities.
Von May quit smoking and, having settled in New York, made room in his lifestyle for walking, running, swimming, and ballroom dancing lessons at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio. “Perhaps it saved my life,” he speculates. “Who knows?”
Financially secure, in good health, and wanting to give back, von May’s thoughts turned to youth, physical activity, culture, and Peabody (thanks to his friend, Taylor Hanex, a Peabody alumna, a member of the Peabody National Advisory Council, and a Johns Hopkins trustee).
Once introduced to Peabody, von May decided to establish two four-year named scholarships for Conservatory voice students, as well as support the Dance Training Program for Boys, which provides free lessons for boys from Baltimore City public schools. Soon thereafter, he signed a generous bequest intention in support of dance at the Peabody Preparatory and voice at the Peabody Conservatory.
Von May’s interest in dance comes from his belief in the Latin phrase mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body). “When you move your body, your reason starts improving,” he states. Intrigued by the Estelle Dennis/Peabody Dance Training Program for Boys, von May observed and participated in a Saturday morning class during his visit to Peabody.
Von May has attended performances of the Peabody Opera Theatre’s French double-bill of Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, and Don Giovanni. He came away impressed. He called the performances by the students “technically at least as good as the big stars, and they’re young.” Gifts like his allow Peabody to continue to serve as a true incubator of talent.