Jeannette Powell, a reclusive philanthropist, supporter of the arts and member of the governing board of University of the Pacific, has died at age 80.
Close friends told The Bee that Mrs. Powell, widow of Sacramento developer Robert C. Powell, had been ill recently and died Dec. 2 in a hospital at Stanford University. A spokesman at UOP, where Mrs. Powell had served on the Board of Regents since 1999, said the university could not give out information about her.
Mrs. Powell had no children or close survivors, friends said. No services are planned.
Although they shunned publicity, Mrs. Powell and her husband were influential figures as philanthropists and developers of landmark properties in the capital region.
A professional interior designer, she decorated projects built by her husband, including the Gold River and Selby Ranch communities and Pavilions shopping center. Robert Powell died in 2007.
"They were a terrific partnership," former Sacramento County Supervisor Sandra Smoley said.
The Powells were generous benefactors for UOP. In 2007, they announced that they were giving $100 million to the university the biggest gift in UOP history after they both had died. They previously gave $1.5 million to UOP for a campus art center, which is named for Mrs. Powell.
The couple supported arts groups, including the Sacramento Ballet and the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra. They were art collectors who sponsored the Crocker Art Museum's annual auction for many years at Pavilions.
Mrs. Powell also gave works from her own collection by artists Gregory Kondos and Wayne Thiebaud to the Crocker and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She gave an 88-by-88-inch painting by Kondos, "Rutherford Vineyard," to the Crocker last year and disclosed plans to donate a work by figurative painter Nathan Oliveira.
"She loved art and loved the Crocker," chief curator Scott Shields said. "She really had a joy when she was here. She would just run from room to room looking at works."
Mrs. Powell was born in 1932. She met her husband in high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, said Moni Kondos, wife of Gregory Kondos and a longtime friend of the couple
"They were sweethearts," Moni Kondos said. "They roller-skated and were prize-winning roller skaters."
Mrs. Powell began her career as a color and space planner for design studios in the Bay Area and for Capitol Office Equipment in Sacramento.
She started her own interior design business in 1966.
Although neither attended UOP, the Powells were longtime supporters of the private Stockton university. They endowed the Powell Scholar Program, UOP's premier academic award for students. Robert Powell also served as a regent from 1989 to 1993.
Mrs. Powell, who lived in Gold River, donated art to museums from a second home in San Francisco that she sold last year, Moni Kondos said. Before her health failed, she enjoyed hiking and scuba-diving with friends on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
"She was still planting trees this year in Gold River near where she lived," Moni Kondos said.
"She was rearranging things and making sure the squirrels and wild turkeys were fed. She always cared about the outdoors."