A Heightened Connection

UC Davis faculty-staff couple’s work and giving supports UC Davis’ international art scene

Don Roth stands in front of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which he supports both as executive director and through generous philanthropy.

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by Laura Pizzo

Executive Director of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Don Roth’s love for music spawned from being raised amidst New York City’s buffet of musical and artistic talent. Now, both as a UC Davis staff member and a donor, he takes pride knowing he’s helped bring a similar internationally acclaimed variety of artists to the Mondavi Center through his work and philanthropy.

“So often, we put on a show that just came from or is on its way to Carnegie Hall,” he said. “But here, you can live in Davis and ride your bike over and see those same shows.”

He notes, prior to the Mondavi Center’s opening, many of these performers would have passed over the region. But now, things have changed.

“UC Davis is now a place where some of the greatest artists from virtually every continent come to perform in what is one of the most beautiful and acoustically perfect venues anywhere,” he said.

Because Roth wholeheartedly believes in the Mondavi Center’s mission to host broad-based programming that furthers community engagement with the arts, he has been giving back to UC Davis for ten years—the entire length of his career at UC Davis. 

And he and his wife Jolán Friedhoff, who is a Continuing Lecturer for Applied Violin and Chamber Music at UC Davis, have given to other campus units and external organizations as well. These include the new Pitzer Center, a recital hall that will open this coming fall.

“It was very important to me that we contribute to the fund for the new recital hall because through my students I knew that a new venue would vastly enhance their possibilities in the area of music performance,” said Friedhoff.

The couple believes that philanthropy gives them a greater sense of ownership to their work and heightens their connection to the arts, the region and the UC Davis spirit.

“UC Davis has a particularly collaborative culture—it’s a real hallmark of what we are as a university,” Roth said. “Part of that team approach is to help support the university and the units we are most interested in. If staff and faculty don’t participate, it makes it harder for us to expect those who are not part of our immediate campus family to participate.”

Roth witnesses the benefits of philanthropy on a day-to-day basis in his position, from the world-class performers who visit campus to the growth of student interest in these musical performances.

“As an example, philanthropy allows us to bring something—such as Stewart Goodyear’s performance of all 32 Beethoven sonatas in a single day, which has only been done twice anywhere in the world—to enrich the lives of people in this community,” he said. “We could never support those edgier events without philanthropy.”