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Palm Beach  Society News  Pages 1 
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Palm Beach Opera Receives $1 Million Gift


Palm Beach Opera

Palm Beach Opera receives $1 million gift to be used in the name of artistic excellence


Palm Beach Opera announced at the 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Gala on January 20 that long-time supporter Helen K. Persson has made a $1 million gift in honor of the organization’s 50th anniversary. 


Mrs. Persson has been involved with Palm Beach Opera since 1996 and became a member of the board of directors in 1999.  A known philanthropist for the arts in the community, Helen provided the Palm Beach Opera with a $500,000 challenge grant during the 2009-2010 season, and was the sponsor of the company’s performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in 2009 and Verdi’s Requiem in 2011. Last March, as the Opera planned the 50th anniversary season, Helen Persson made a $1million gift in honor of the 50th Anniversary Season to guarantee a splendid Golden Jubilee celebration and to maintain artistic excellence throughout the season.


“With her magnanimous support, leadership and vision over the past seasons, Helen Persson has become Palm Beach Opera’s Guardian Angel”, said Daniel Biaggi, General Director of the company. “Helen’s deep love and knowledge of opera, as well as her passion to see the arts thrive, has given this community the gift of marvelous symphonic and operatic performances. Helen is a beacon of hope and support, serves as inspiration to all of us, and sets the standards for other community leaders to ensure that the arts and culture have a prominent place in Palm Beach County.”


Helen K. Persson graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School as a registered nurse and went on to serve there as head nurse in pediatrics. She joined the Navy during World War II and served in the Navy Nurse Corps where she rose to the rank of Lt. Commander. Her commitment to health and well-being presaged her strong support of Sloan-Kettering in New York, Good Samaritan Hospital in Palm Beach County and recently Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts.


Helen studied music, in particular opera, and performed often. Her love of the arts has not abated, and she remains a staunch supporter of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera and Palm Beach Opera. Palm Beach Atlantic University named a recital hall in her honor. The Helen K. Persson Recital Hall includes studios, practice space, classrooms and offices. Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing honored her by inducting her into the university’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society.


Helen established the eminent scholar chair in community caring at Florida Atlantic University so that all of society would benefit. In 1996 Palm Beach Atlantic University honored her with its Women of Distinction Award, and the National Society of Fund Raising Executives presented her with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Palm Beach Atlantic presented her with an honorary degree in May 2001. She is committed to Colgate University. There she and her husband, Ted, have provided the major support to build Persson Hall, home to three social science departments as well as the Helen K. Persson Auditorium. In 1984 Colgate presented her with an honorary degree.


Palm Beach Opera is dedicated to producing world-class opera and diverse educational programs which play an integral role in the artistic and overall enrichment of the communities it serves. Palm Beach Opera was incorporated in May 1961 and is a proud member of the Palm Beach Cultural Council.


Joyce Brooks

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