Weills give $12 million to SSU
Philanthropists Joan and Sanford "Sandy" I. Weill donated $12 million to Sonoma State University to finish the Green Music Center.
Linnea Mullins/Special to the Index-Tribune
Sonoma State University announced March 22 the largest cash gift in the university's history, a $12 million donation for the Green Music Center from philanthropists Joan and Sanford "Sandy" I. Weill, who bought a home in Sonoma only last October.
The Green Center is named for Donald and Maureen Green who provided the foundational grant for the facility and have a home in the Sonoma Valley.
The Weills' gift will enable the university to complete the concert hall and adjoining lawn and commons performance venues, which will officially open as the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Lawn and Commons for the 2012-13 season with a grand opening celebration planned for fall 2012.
"We care deeply about the communities we live and work in," said the Weills in a written statement. "When we first toured the Green Music Center, we were immediately inspired by the beauty, the acoustics and the wonderful potential for this spectacular arts venue."
The Santa Rosa Symphony will be the center's orchestra-in-residence. A handful of world-class artists have already commented on the hall's exceptional sound during private visits to sample the acoustics.
Designed by architect William Rawn, working with acoustician Lawrence Kirkegaard, the 1,400-seat concert hall is modeled after Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.
In addition to the concert hall, the Weill's gift will support the completion of two additional performance venues. The south end of the hall is designed with a back wall that can be fully opened onto a landscaped and terraced lawn, expanding the reach of the concert hall to an additional 3,000 guests.
The Weill Commons, an area directly to the east of the main concert hall, will be transformed into an amphitheater with a 10,000-seat capacity for large-scale outdoor events. The $12 million gift includes a $4 million one-to-one challenge grant to encourage a broader circle of investment, and will complete the spectacular outdoor performance areas.
"We were impressed by what the university and the community has been able to accomplish through tenacity and determination, and we are honored to join Donald and Maureen Green and the many other generous contributors who have stepped forward to help make this dream a reality," the Weills' statement said. Declaring that the Green Music Center "could be a transformative project, not just for the campus but for the entire northern California community," the Weills said "we look forward with great anticipation to the exciting future of this world class destination."
The initial concepts for the Green Music Center began with Donald and Maureen Green's dream to establish a choral recital hall on campus.
The vision later expanded into a world-class arts center after SSU President Ruben Armiñana, his wife Marne Olson and Donald and Maureen Green visited Tanglewood, the famed music center in Lenox, Mass. that serves as home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Music philanthropy isn't new to the Weills. Sandy Weill has been chair of the board of trustees of Carnegie Hall since 1991 and serves as founder and chair of the National Academy Foundation, a career-themed high school education organization he started in 1982.
Weill is also chairman emeritus of Citigroup; trustee emeritus of Cornell University; trustee of New York Presbyterian Hospital; and overseer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, among many other board appointments.
Joan Weill has served for the past 10 years as chair of the board of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Foundation. The Joan Weill School of Dance at Alvin Ailey, completed in 2005, is the nation's largest facility dedicated to dance.
Joan Weill is also co-chair of the advisory committee of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall and co-chair of the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center's Women's Health Symposium. The Weills are recipients of the 2009 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Award in recognition of their philanthropic efforts. They have been married for 55 years and have two children and four grandchildren.
In October they purchased Shanel, the $30 million, 362-acre estate created by entrepreneur Gary Shansby in the hills off Grove Street.