Sarah Marks Richards '63 Honored for Her Dedication to the Arts

Sarah RichardsSarah Marks Richards ’63 has come a long way since her childhood in rural Washington, Ind., making an indelible impression in the arts community of Hawaii, her adopted home for more than 40 years.

Although she studied both English and music and her career has been directly related to music and the arts, Sarah says she knew before graduation that the performance lifestyle was not something she desired. She did thrive on new experiences, travel and continuing education, though. She spent a year living abroad with a friend in Spain, teaching English as a Second Language and traveling around Europe by car.

While many of her classmates were married soon after graduation, Sarah dedicated her first decade outside of DePauw to travel, teaching, graduate school and developing her career. She served as dean of women at Albion College, dean of students at Chaminade University in Honolulu and executive director of Hawaii’s State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. She oversaw that agency’s growth from $1 million to $10 million, achieving a national ranking for Hawaii as number one in per capita state support for the arts.

Sarah was a founder and president of Hawaii Opera Theatre and led it to independence from its parent, The Honolulu Symphony. As president of Hawaii Theatre Center, she led a $32 million effort to restore and renovate the deteriorating, historic former vaudeville theater that is now a major performing arts center in downtown Honolulu and was recognized in 2005 as the Most Outstanding Historic Theater in America. 

Retired since 2014 after serving 25 years as Hawaii Theatre Center’s top executive, Sarah was recently awarded the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance’s 2015 Alfred Preis Honor for her lifetime support of the arts and arts education in Hawaii. This award was particularly meaningful to Sarah not only because of the tremendous outreach done by the Arts Alliance, but because Alfred Preis, the architect best known for designing the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, was a close friend and her predecessor at the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Sarah’s dedication to the arts is not restricted to Hawaii. Motivated by the momentum of DePauw’s School of Music, her lifelong love of opera and her interest in supporting the development of young talent through performance opportunities, she has included support for DePauw’s performing arts students in her estate plan. She committed $1 million to establish the Sarah Marks Richards Opera Program Endowment in the University’s School of Music.

Sarah says she draws constantly upon the knowledge, leadership skills and strong sense of community she developed at DePauw, along with her mother, Dorothy Ruth Stratton Marks ’32, and several members of her family. The endowed fund recognizes her commitment to music, family and the value of a liberal arts education.

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