Melody Ann Palmer, an unassuming musician and philanthropist who lived a quiet and giving life in the North Bay where she was born and raised, has left a legacy estate gift north of $4 million to the Sonoma State University Foundation, the university has learned.
The donation, including initial distributions totaling $2 million in November, will be evenly distributed to benefit both the School of Education and the Center for Performing Arts, at the request of the Melody Ann Palmer Trust.
“Sonoma State is truly honored and grateful for the gift from Melody Ann Palmer,” said Provost Karen Moranski. “The gift comes at a time when we are working hard to support our students and build an endowment that will sustain the performing arts for years to come. This donation will provide scholarships and offer arts programming that the campus and community need.”
Melody Ann Palmer was born in San Rafael in 1959 and grew up near Dominican University. A graduate of San Rafael High School and UC Berkeley, she was raised to value education and considered pursuing a career in teaching. Her father, Peter W. Palmer, also attended UC Berkeley and graduated in 1957 with a degree in Social Welfare. After gravitating toward a career in computer science, Melody ultimately dedicated much of her life to her love of music. A member of the Mui Phi Epsilon Sorority and the Thursday Musical Club, the aptly named Melody studied the flute. She would often perform at family functions or at local senior homes, alongside her mother, Melba, who played the piano.
“Sonoma State is so grateful for this truly generous gift that will make an immediate impact on campus in our community,” said the university’s interim president, Mike Lee. “This level of support allows us to build an extra layer of reinforcement to the university’s solid foundation and reputation for offering world-class liberal arts and science programs. For the School of Education, it will provide new opportunities to develop innovative programs and provide direct support to teacher candidates at a time when our community needs trained educators more than ever before. And I’m certain that Melody Ann Palmer, who dedicated much of her life to music, would be proud to know that her legacy lives on in supporting and valuing opportunities for a new generation to dedicate their livelihoods to the arts – right here in the North Bay.”
Palmer was known for her overwhelming generosity in support of local nonprofits with a focus on faith-based groups and education. Her estate gifts also included support for SSU’s partnering organizations, including 10,000 Degrees, College of Marin Foundation and San Domenico School, among others.
“This gift acknowledges the importance of supporting a school that produces leaders who directly serve children and families,” said Dr. Laura Alamillo, Dean of SSU’s School of Education. “It is important to support programs that serve to improve opportunities for marginalized communities and youth. The School of Education works directly to reduce barriers and improve the educational experiences of children. This gift acknowledges our role in the community. We thank the Palmer Estate for supporting children and families. By investing in educators, we are investing in our community.”
SSU anticipates utilizing a portion of the gift to be designated for current use on priorities in the School of Education and Center for Performing Arts. The larger portion of the gift would be used to create two board designated endowment funds to allow for it to be invested alongside the University’s endowment and provide on-going annual support to the designated areas for the long term.