Ben R. Rechter, a Nashville businessman and philanthropist whose background included work in civil rights, education, nonprofits and the arts, died on May 7. He was 83.
Rechter was the former president and CEO of Rogers Group Investments Inc., a co-founder of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and board member of multiple entities, including as chair of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
CFMT honored Rechter and other founders of the entity with the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award in 2001. In 2016, he shared the initial Bridge to Equality Award along with his close friend, the late Francis Guess, for their efforts to create equal opportunity in Nashville.
"It is hard to imagine how many lives he has touched,” Ellen Lehman, the Community Foundation's president and co-founder, said in a release from the organization. “And certainly all of us involved with The Community Foundation are on that list.”
Rechter was a past recipient of the NAACP’s Legacy Award and was appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by then-President Ronald Reagan. He also served 30 years on the Tennessee Commission on Human Rights and on the boards of directors of Nashville Public Television, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Education Foundation, American Learning Solutions and the recently opened National Museum of African American Music.
In addition, he served as chairman of the board for Fisk University, United Way of Greater Nashville, WPLN Education Foundation, the former Cumberland Museum & Science Center, the Nashville Institute of Arts, the Nashville Symphony Association and the aforementioned chamber. He also was a commissioner with the Metro Development and Housing Authority.
His other board work included stints with Saint Thomas Health Services, Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Council, Urban League of Middle Tennessee, Leonard Bernstein Center for Education and the Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business at Belmont University.
Rechter also was a founding member of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center where, working closely with business leader and arts philanthropist and activist Martha Ingram, with the facility having opened in 1980.
Rechter attended Hanover College and Indiana University and received honorary degrees from Fisk, Belmont and Meharry Medical College.
“Ben was a person who tried to bring about equity and make this community a better place,” Dr. Henry Foster, professor emeritus and former dean of the Meharry Medical College School, recalled in a 2016 tribute video produced by The Community Foundation. “That was really what he was all about.”
Rechter was preceded in death by his parents. Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Mary Joan Rechter; brothers Sam and Rick Rechter; sister Pat Daugherty; stepbrother Jerry Neely; stepsister Sharon Douglass; sons Ben L. Rechter (Jamie) and Mark Rechter (Olivia); daughter Jennifer Paisley (Eric); six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday at Saint Henry Catholic Church (6401 Harding Pike) with a funeral to follow at 11 a.m. Thursday at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee or United Way of Greater Nashville. In the release, the family thanked the Sarah Cannon Research Institute and Alive Hospice.