Evert B. Person (April 6, 1914 -- March 8, 2011) was a much-cherished and beloved friend of Sonoma State University, most particularly to its students of the Performing Arts -- dance, theater and music.
Few people know that as a young man, Mr. Person was a serious musician of considerable talent, accomplishment and ambition. Blessed with a beautiful tenor voice, his dream was to be a professional singer of opera and art songs. For years we've heard from those who knew him in his youth that he had a truly exceptional talent and natural instrument.
After a long Sonoma County career as Publisher of the Press Democrat, he became one of our region's most generous and visionary philanthropists. No surprise, he remained a lover and supporter of the arts—particularly music—all of his life. He was one of four founding contributors to the establishment of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, now known as the Well Fargo Center for the Arts.
In 1990, he established a $3.5 million endowment for the departments of Music and Theater Arts, by far the largest such gift that Sonoma State University had ever received at that time. In the 21 years of the endowment's existence, over 1,000 students of music, dance, acting and technical theater have received significant monetary support in the form of competitive annual talent scholarships. Additionally, the Person Endowment has provided significant annual program and production support for our 140+ annual shows, concerts, guest artist residencies, master classes, competitions, festivals and many other essential training elements normally only available to students studying at a conservatory or professional school in the performing arts. The core of a young performing artist's training is one-on-one instruction with a master teacher—and the Person Endowment continues to provide many of SSU's young actors, dancers, musicians and designers with private instruction from some of the best working performers, directors, playwrights, choreographers and designers in our region.
Evert Person's lifetime contribution to the students and cultural life of Sonoma State University and its surrounding community is so vast and far-reaching as to be incalculable. To think that one man could forge a legacy of such depth and breadth and through his generosity touch and enrich so many lives so profoundly -- well, it staggers the imagination -- and inspires all of us to ponder what constitutes a life well-lived, what truly counts in this world when all is said and done, and just how powerful each of us truly is should we choose to take action to transform the world -- and maybe, if we're so fortunate -- see it all unfold before our eyes in our own time. Evert Person did just that—and, in so doing, demonstrated to us all the value, worth and potential of a single human life -- that perhaps his greatest gift of all.
Director, School of Performing Arts
Sonoma State University