California Lutheran University has received more than $800,000 for a center for the arts from the estate of its first employee. Ethel Beyer, a Camarillo resident who died in November at the age of 104, left her entire estate to CLU. The bulk of it, $829,000, is being set aside for the construction of the arts center. This brings the fund’s total to more than $1.1 million.
A center for the arts has been in CLU’s master plan for many years. Currently, music and choral groups perform in Samuelson Chapel and plays are staged in the Preus-Brandt Forum, the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and a black box theater in the old gym.
Despite limited facilities, high-quality performing arts groups and productions have been part of the university since its early days. The theatre arts department has been invited several times to stage its plays at the prestigious Region VIII Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and the CLU Choir has performed at New York’s Lincoln Center and in England, Italy, Norway and Sweden.
While CLU has two exhibit spaces, the new William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art and the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture in the Soiland Humanities Center, it needs studio and classroom facilities. A faculty of accomplished artists including sculptor Béla Bácsi and painter Tony Pro prepare students for careers in visual arts, education and design in dated and temporary facilities.
Beyer was a music lover who sang in a church choir for many years. She established a CLU music scholarship for keyboarding students and the remainder of her estate, $10,000, will go to this fund.
Orville Dahl, the head of a foundation formed to develop a Lutheran liberal arts college, hired Beyer as his administrative assistant in 1957. As a member of that first team of visionaries, Beyer helped mold the character of California Lutheran College, which was founded in 1959 and opened its doors to students in 1961. She went on to serve as administrative assistant to the President’s Office, the Faculty Office, the Grants and Scholarships Department and the Business Office.
Beyer retired in 1997 and received an honorary degree from CLU the same year. She continued to serve the university as a volunteer and as a supporter of many events. She was an only child who never married and considered CLU her family.