Remembering Ed Stolman
When Ed Stolman died Dec. 23, his passing left a crater in the lives of countless Sonomans who came together Jan. 28 to fill the void with words of love, appreciation and praise.
Stolman, a visionary entrepreneur, health care consultant, philanthropist and master connector of people and causes, had a long and special relationship with Sonoma State University, where he pioneered creation of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and made crucial introductions that led to the funding necessary for completion of the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall at SSU’s Green Music Center.
And it was at SSU, in the expansive embrace of Weill Hall, that some 200 friends, admirers and professional associates gathered to remember Stolman, reflect on the qualities of his unique life, and laugh at some of his more endearing foibles.
SSU president Ruben Armiñana, whose dream for a world-class music center ignited Stolman’s passion to help make it happen, described his departed friend as, “The engine that kept going and going and going. He arranged the first funding for the Osher Institute and (over time) I saw more of Ed each week than any of my deans.”
Armiñana said his work took him off campus frequently, so he told Stolman, “I travel so much, when I’m gone, why don’t you be the president. It was a joke. Ed took it seriously.”
Stolman arranged to meet the Weills, Armiñana explained, adding,“He told them about Sonoma State University, about the Osher Institute, and then he said, ‘Oh yes, they are building a music center.’” Weill, who had been involved with Carnegie Hall for 20 years, told Stolman, “I’d be interested.”
Stolman personally drove Weill to SSU, said Armiñana, and “Literally, two weeks later, we had the funding for Weill Hal. Ed loved to bring people together. He was always trying to make a deal, he was a great deal maker. When you shook his hand, you had to count your fingers afterward.”
Stolman was obsessed with learning, reflected Armiñana. “Ed thought everybody was in the process of learning. It didn’t matter if you were 6 months or 99 years old.”
Nancy Cline, whose family owns Cline and Jacuzzi wineries, spent much time with Stolman in the waning years of his life and described him as impeccably “well dressed, the silver fox … I envision that Ed went off to buy a new pair of Italian shoes – they’re incredible shoes, he had exquisite taste – to wear for his next adventure.”
Cline said Stolman’s “Tapestry was full of losses and triumphs, three wives, his children, (and) you couldn’t mention a place in the world that Ed didn’t have a connection with.”
But she said, “In all the shocking ups and downs (of his life) there wasn’t a day that Ed didn’t start his life over again. He had the art of living down. He would always come back to the present moment. He lived those moments as if they mattered, and of course they do.”
Of a trip to Italy with Stolman in tow, Cline recalled, “I made the mistake of believing you could go to Italy with someone 30 years older and get some rest. Ed was up every morning at 7.”
His sometimes-ribald sense of humor was also a guilty pleasure. Cline recounted a time when, “Ed told a joke about an aging body part and we were all laughing so hard we had to pull over and get out of the car and fall down on the ground laughing.
“The downside of a friendship like Ed’s is that the loss is so painful.”