Six prominent Sonoma County philanthropists join deal
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10:22 p.m.
Six prominent Sonoma County philanthropists stand behind the principals of Sonoma Media Investments. They are:
• Bill Jasper: President of audio-tech firm Dolby Laboratories from 1983 to 2009 and CEO from 1979 to March 2009. He earned $1.6 million in his final year with the company, according to Forbes magazine. He joined the company in 1979 and helped take it public in 2005.
He received a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from UC Berkeley.
In 2006, he told the New York Stock Exchange magazine that he was an avid clarinetist who performs with other members of San Francisco's Bohemian Club, a private men's club that holds an annual retreat at the Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio.
• Gary Nelson: Founder and retired chairman of Nelson Family of Companies, a staffing and recruiting firm that opened in Sonoma in 1970. The company had sales of $435 million in 2011, when it was the 44th-largest staffing company in the country.
The company this year sold a controlling interest in its largest division, WorkforceLogic, which delivered employee management software. The price was not disclosed.
The Nelson companies have about 175 employees; 75 are based in Sonoma.
Nelson and his wife, Marcia, who live in Sonoma, oversee the Nelson Community Care Fund and Endowment and this year gave $3 million toward the construction of Sonoma Valley Hospital emergency center.
• Norma Person: President of the Ernest L. and Ruth W. Finley Foundation, which has jump-started and supported institutions, including Santa Rosa's Finley Community Center, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Person, who lives in Santa Rosa, is the widow of Evert Person, a leader in post-World War II Sonoma County and former publisher of The Press Democrat. He sold the newspaper to the New York Times Co. in 1985.
Her involvement in The Press Democrat purchase brings the deal a circular historical element. The Finley Foundation is named for Ernest Latimer Finley and his wife, Ruth. In 1895, Finley started the Evening Press newspaper and in 1897 he bought the Sonoma Democrat newspaper, creating The Press Democrat.
• Jean Schulz: Schulz's late husband, Charles Schulz, created the “Peanuts” comic strip. Her philanthropic ventures have included SSU's high-tech Schulz Information Center, considered one of the state's top academic libraries.
She has thrown her support to the Green Music Center, the Sonoma Land Trust, the Council on Aging and Canine Companions.
Schulz, who has served as a volunteer with a range of organizations, also co-founded the Community Foundation of Sonoma County in 1983. The foundation manages hundreds of endowed charitable funds aimed at supporting area causes. She is chairwoman of the board of Charles Schulz Creative Associates and president of the board of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
Schulz lives in Santa Rosa.
• Les Vadasz: A native of Hungary who was educated as an engineer at McGill University in Canada. He left Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968 to help found Intel Corp., now the world's largest semiconductor chip maker.
He retired in 2003 as Intel's executive vice president. A former board member of the company, he also was the founder and president of its investment unit, Intel Capital. In 2001, he was paid $275,000 in salary and $468,600 in bonuses, according to federal documents.
In 1997, he and his wife, Judy, founded the Vadasz Family Foundation. In the Sonoma Valley, the foundation has funded projects to blend science and English language development in elementary school classrooms, pre-school classes to teach English to Spanish-speaking students who live in poverty and an Intel-sponsored computer clubhouse at the Boys and Girls Club.
The Vadaszes live in Sonoma.
• Sanford I. Weill: A financier and philanthropist better known as Sandy, he was chairman and CEO of Citigroup when it was the world's largest bank.
His career in finance included stints as chief of American Express Co. and Travelers Group, Inc., which he led into a $76 billion merger with Citicorp in 1998.
His lobbying efforts played a key role in the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. That development eliminated many barriers between banks, investment firms and insurance companies and, Weill's critics say, ushered in an era of lending practices that led to the 2007 housing collapse and foreclosure crisis.
He and his wife, Joan, arrived in Sonoma County in 2010, buying a 362-acre estate in the hills west of Sonoma for $31 million. Last year, he gave $12 million to Sonoma State University -- the largest gift in university history — that enabled the completion of the concert hall at the $145 million Green Music Center. That allowed SSU to fully open the music center after work had stalled. Weill also arranged a $15 million Mastercard sponsorship toward an outdoor pavilion at the music center.
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