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Elizabeth Gentry Sayad leaves the Niedermeyer apartments in downtown Columbia, Mo., after touring the building on Jan. 7, 2013.  Photo by Robert Cohen

Elizabeth Gentry Sayad leaves the Niedermeyer apartments in downtown Columbia, Mo., after touring the building on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by Robert Cohen

December 14, 2017

By Sarah Bryan Miller St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Saint Louis, Missouri (December 14, 2017) – Elizabeth Gentry Sayad was a founder, co-founder, board member, trustee or driving force for many of the St. Louis region's cultural, historic and academic institutions.

Mrs. Sayad, a lifelong resident of St. Louis, died Tuesday (Dec. 12, 2017) of congestive heart failure at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She was 83.

A concert pianist and author, Mrs. Sayad was involved in the founding of the New Music Circle, New City School, Missouri Arts Council, the Ste. Genevieve-based French colonial preservation group Les Amis, the Shepley Music and Arts Program at Christ Church Cathedral and other organizations, and served on the boards of others. She received the Missouri Arts Award in 1991 and the Missouri Humanities Award in 2004; and received an honorary doctorate of Arts and Letters from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The only child of Elizabeth Estes Gentry and William Richard Gentry, Mrs. Sayad "was one of the great forces of St. Louis," said her son, Gentry Sayad. "This is a woman who has driven boards of directors all over the area. Just the number of things that she did with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Laumeier Sculpture Park, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the Repertory Theatre is amazing."

"Elizabeth was a fantastic person," St. Louis Art Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin said. "She has been deeply involved here at the Art Museum for most of her life, but in a formal capacity since 1995; she was a commissioner for nine years, and in 2005 was voted an honorary commissioner. She was a constant presence, and a larger-than-life personality."

Benjamin noted that one of her ancestors, Gen. Richard Gentry, was painted by George Caleb Bingham; a promised gift from Mrs. Sayad and her son, it's on display at the museum. "She was a great lover and advocate of the arts in general. Her Christmas party was the invitation of the season; she always sat at the piano and played Christmas carols."

Mrs. Sayad was a seventh-generation Missourian, and well-informed on the early history of the region, particularly the French settlements of the Mississippi Valley. "We have a long history of family in St. Louis," her son said. Post Road and Long Road were named for Mrs. Sayad's grandfathers. The family donated what is now Gentry Park and the Payne-Gentry House to the city of Bridgeton.

Said Emily Rauh Pulitzer, who worked with Mrs. Sayad often: "She was a force in the founding and early days of the New Music Circle, when there wasn't much other new music presented in St. Louis. She was very hospitable, outgoing and generous."

Gentry Sayad said that his mother and late father, Homer E. Sayad, were "a team" in many of their endeavors. One of those was the founding of the Shepley Music and Arts Program at Christ Church Cathedral. William "Pat" Partridge, canon precentor at the Cathedral, said, "They wanted to open the doors to the Cathedral to welcome and support young talent."

He added, "Elizabeth was a very forward-thinking dynamo of energy; she knew everybody, and everybody knew her. She knew how to lead, always for something good."

In addition to her son, of Shanghai, China, Mrs. Sayad is survived by her daughter, Helene Elizabeth Todd Sayad of St. Louis, and two granddaughters.

A funeral will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Church of St. Michael and St. George, 6345 Wydown Boulevard; a reception will follow at the St. Louis Woman's Club, 4600 Lindell Boulevard. Burial will be private.