Reserving a Seat for the Arts

Barbara Jackson

Local philanthropist helps UC Davis’ leadership in the performing arts.

Barbara Jackson has her place in the main concert hall of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts — a simple wooden chair with a blue-fabric, padded seat, set in a stage-right box. The only seat of its kind in the concert hall, it is brought out only when Jackson, a well-known local arts patron, attends a performance.

It’s a small perk for a woman who, through her philanthropic giving, made possible all 1,801 seats in the Barbara K. and W. Turrentine Jackson Hall and helped ensure that UC Davis has a front row seat in the regional and national arts scene.

When asked how she feels knowing her gifts made all this possible, Jackson said, “I just think we did a good thing with our money.”

This year, as the Mondavi Center celebrates its 10th anniversary, Jackson is yet again helping UC Davis expand its leadership in the performing arts by providing her support for a new 375-seat Classroom and Recital Hall. Her recent gift to the Department of Music comes in the form of a testamentary commitment, which is very similar to a bequest.

“Since construction of the Mondavi Center began, I know the university has wanted to build a new recital hall for intimate performances,” said Jackson, 2008 recipient of the UC Davis Medal — the highest tribute bestowed by the university. “I’m just happy that the day is finally here and I can do something to help make it possible.”

Jackson came to Davis in 1951, when her husband, W. Turrentine “Turpie” Jackson, a renowned historian of the American West, joined the faculty. Throughout the next six decades, Barbara Jackson supported the performing arts on campus and in the community. She served as president of the University Farm Circle, was a founding member of the Friends of UC Davis Presents, and helped found the Davis Theatrical Costumers Guild — a group of volunteers who designed and sewed costumes for schools and community theater groups from the 1950s through 2006. Additionally, Jackson volunteered her time sewing costumes for the Sacramento Opera for many years.A site clearing celebration for the recital hall occurred this fall next door to the current Music Building. When completed, the hall is expected to be one of the most active venues in the region, hosting more than 100 chamber, vocal and solo music recitals annually. In recognition of her gift, the stage will be named The Barbara K. Jackson Stage. The lobby will be named in honor of Grace and Grant Noda, who have given $1.5 million.

In addition to donating their time, the Jacksons gave to support UC Davis students and to a variety of programs across the university, beginning with a $10 donation to the University Library in 1968. Barbara Jackson has also endowed a graduate fellowship and three faculty chair positions, sponsored the Mondavi Center’s Rising Stars of Opera free performances and made a donation to ensure the UC Davis Foundation Matching Fund for Student Support (see story page 41) reached its $1 million goal.

Jackson said she and her late husband were motivated to give their talents, time and resources because UC Davis became their home: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness. And that’s the way I feel about UC Davis.”

To give to the UC Davis Classroom and Recital Hall, visit Giving to UC Davis.