We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

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.”

Weill is an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Press Democrat. He could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Sakaki has said it is her vision to better integrate the Green Center into campus life, including moving next year’s graduation ceremonies to Weill Hall.

Ben Ford, chairman of the SSU faculty and an ex-officio member of the advisory board, said the change in leadership comes at a good time.

“I think the center’s slogan is to ‘Aim high, reach wide and educate all.’ The Weills have played a huge role in the ‘aim high’ part of that mission and they have really helped to get the flagship program off to a great start. But the ‘reach wide and educate all’ parts of that mission are what we need to focus on now.”

Sakaki has announced plans to restructure management of the center. Under former SSU President Ruben Arminana, the center was co-directed by Zarin Mehta, former director of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, and Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, SSU’s vice president for administration and finance. Furukawa-Schlereth retired after Sakaki arrived.

The new president said Wednesday she intends to hire a single executive director who will report to her and serve in her cabinet. A search is underway to fill the post.

“I’m looking for someone who is here and committed to the community,” she said. “Zarin Mehta has been excellent and he’s brought us to this place where we are now. We are looking at the next step.”