Auto industry leader Henry Hansel will take philanthropist Sandy Weill’s place as chairman of the Sonoma State University’s Board of Advisors for Weill Hall and the Green Music Center, the university announced Wednesday.
Both Weill and his wife, Joan, have stepped down from the 27-member advisory board.
Hansel, who was invited to fill Weill’s post by new SSU President Judy Sakaki, said he is optimistic about the opportunity and praised the Weills for their support of the center since it opened its doors in September of 2012. He currently serves as a vice-chairman of the board.
“I look forward to strengthening ties with the campus and community,” he said in a statement. “It is important for me to share with our community how much effort the Weills dedicated to making this music center truly world-class.”
Hansel is owner of the county’s largest auto group and part of a family whose roots in the industry go back to the early 1900s. The Hansel dealership group has been around since 1961 and sells 12 brands in eight auto centers in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
The Weills, prominent arts and education philanthropists, donated a crucial $12 million to complete the 1,417-seat concert hall in 2011. It was the largest single cash gift in SSU’s history. The concert hall and the lawn behind it are both named after the couple. Sakaki scrapped plans for a 10,000-seat amphitheater in September, saying the money was better spent on academic programs and the needs of students and faculty.
“Henry Hansel is a well-respected community leader and I’m excited about his willingness to step up,” she said. “He’s very much aligned with the vision that started with the Greens in terms of the close connectedness between the academic mission of the university and the education component of the Green Music Center, and the ties with the local community.”
Telecom Valley pioneer Don Green and his wife, Maureen, were the initial spark behind the project as well as donors. The Green Music Center is named in their honor.
Don Green, the former president of the advisory board, now co-chairman emeritus, said Hansel will do a good job.
“He will fit in well with the new president’s view of the organization,” said Green. “I think there is a need, in my opinion, to have a board that is supportive of the new president.”
Weill, 83, stepped down as chairman of New York’s Carnegie Hall Board of Trustees in 2015 and continues to serve as president, a title formerly held by the late violinist Isaac Stern. Weill is a former chief executive of Citigroup, which he built into the world’s largest bank before the economic recession of 2008. In 2010, the Weills bought an estate in Sonoma.
Their donation came at a key time for the struggling music center project, beset by rising costs and the harsh effects of the broader economic crisis.
Sakaki said she’s grateful for the “unrivaled contributions” the Weills made to the arts and music in the North Bay.
“Weill Hall at the Green Music Center has been a true labor of love for Sandy and Joan,” she said, “and their leadership and passion has redounded to the lasting benefit of our campus and the community.”