Philanthropist and art patron George A.V. Dunning, a vital contributor to the cultural life of the Los Angeles region for nearly five decades, died on March 30 in Phoenix after a brief illness. He was 81.
Dunning’s generosity touched the musical, artistic, legal and historical dimensions of Southern California like few other benefactors, with financial support and service on the boards of more than a dozen arts and charitable organizations. He gave substantial support to Loyola Marymount University’ College of Communication and Fine Arts and to the division of Student Affairs in support of the community of LGBT students.
Of his many interests, his love of music and art, particularly operas and symphonies, reigned supreme. “I’ve always been fond of saying, ‘Art is the guarantee of sanity,’” he once said. “Music is the expression of a person. There is still good music around the world, and it’s so invigorating to listen to.”
Dunning’s first connection to LMU began in the 1960s when his mother requested that her pre-revolution Russian book collection be donated to the university upon her death. In 1984, he started a foundation and designated LMU as one of its beneficiaries. In 2014, he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the university for his work on the Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents and his leadership as chair of the Dean’s Council for the College of Communication and Fine Arts.
He was also recognized for his contributions to many scholarships at LMU, including the creation of the George A.V. Dunning Annual Scholarship in Music and the endowed George A.V. Dunning Music Scholarship.
“Collectively, these [Dunning] scholars have reached thousands of people with beauty, understanding and truth,” Dean Bryant Keith Alexander said at the 2014 event honoring Dunning. Alexander characterized that outreach as the “hallmarks of music as critical aesthetics and a commitment to the mission of LMU—including the service of faith and the promotion of justice.”
In addition to benefiting students educationally, he hoped his scholarships would have a multiplying effect by inspiring philanthropy in others. “[The college] has grown in a direction I never dreamed possible,” he said. “I hope we can continue with the scholarship work going on and attract new donors to let the scholarships grown in size and number.”
Through his estate, his philanthropy will continue to touch the lives of LMU students for generations to come.
The LMU community mourns his loss and cherishes his memory.