Arts Benefactor Marilyn Sweeney Dies

UCR’s California Museum of Photography and Sweeney Gallery were recipients of her generosity

Longtime arts benefactor Marilyn Sweeney, for whom UCR’s Sweeney Gallery is named, died May 10 at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 72.

Mrs. Sweeney and her husband, Jack, supported the California Museum of Photography (CMP) for nearly three decades and initiated the transformation of the University Gallery to the Sweeney Gallery, said Jonathan Green, executive director of UCR ARTSblock. They were instrumental in bringing the entire collection of 6,700 negatives of famed photographer Ansel Adams to CMP from the Fiat Lux commission, a commission created by the University of California to mark the university’s centennial anniversary.

“When the Kress Building was being transformed to the California Museum of Photography, Jack and Marilyn generously supported the reuse/renovation project,” Green said. “CMP’s main gallery is still designated in their name.”

Mrs. Sweeney was a devoted follower of activities at CMP and Sweeney, visiting the museum, the gallery and ARTSblock on a regular basis.

“When Marilyn learned of the possibility of integrating the Sweeney Gallery into the new enterprise, ARTSblock, she was both supportive of having the Sweeney Gallery be a featured location in the new arts complex at the same time she was tremendously committed to preserving the legacy and the name of the adventurous programming she had helped to initiate,” Green said.

“Marilyn always had a smile, a good word, and genuinely delighted in the activities in which she was involved. She loved to come into the Sweeney Gallery or the first-floor gallery at CMP and present herself to the new student at the reception desk in a somewhat mischievous manner: ‘Do you know who this gallery is named for?’ she would ask with a wide grin. When the student would reply, ‘The Sweeneys,’ she would beam, introduce herself and say how wonderful it was to be associated with art and with UCR.”

The Sweeneys also have supported the Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Reserve and the related Desert Research Center in eastern San Bernardino County, which UCR manages for the UC system.

“Marilyn Sweeney was a marvelous benefactor and an enlightened champion for UCR,” said James Erickson, a friend of the family and a former vice chancellor at UC Riverside. “Jack and Marilyn Sweeney were true partners in all of the wonderful projects that they supported. Their humility and concern for others were always apparent in everything they undertook. The depth of their commitment to UCR was remarkable from the Sweeney Art Galley to the Granite Mountain Reserve, from the Alumni Center, to the Museum of Photography.”

Mrs. Sweeney was born in Pasadena and attended the University of Southern California’s School of Dental Hygiene. After retiring as a health care professional, she served on the board of directors of First Regional Bank and its parent company, First Regional Bancorp.

She is survived by her husband, Jack; stepchildren Cynthia and Matt Trice, Patricia Sweeney, and Steven and Julie Sweeney; and two grandchildren.

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