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Saturday, April 20, 2024

UC Davis mourns loss of Margrit Mondavi


Mondavi’s legacy lives on through contributions to Mondavi Center, UC Davis

UC Davis felt a tremendous loss with the passing of Margrit Biever Mondavi on Sept. 2.

“Margrit and her husband Robert were early philanthropists at UC Davis,” said Shaun Keister, Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Relations. “They got so engaged and believed so much in UC Davis that they continued to give. I really believe there was probably no other advocate in the history of UC Davis who everywhere she went she talked so positively about Davis.”

Margrit and her husband Robert donated over $30 million to UC Davis to help fund the construction of both the The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences. Margrit was also an early contributor to the new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art that is set to open Nov. 13.

Margrit was born in Switzerland in 1925, and moved to the United States when her then-husband, Captain Philip Biever, was stationed in South Dakota. After settling in Napa in 1960, Margrit became involved in the wine and arts scene and eventually worked for Robert Mondavi beginning in 1967 at his winery as director of public relations.

In 1969, Margrit founded the now-acclaimed Summer Music Festival, held annually in Napa. This event has drawn big names in music such as Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald. Margrit and Robert Mondavi wed in 1980. Together they infused Napa and Northern California with several philanthropic donations that helped promote the arts.

“She was down to earth, she was very elegant and had a wonderful way about her,” said Dr. Don Roth, Executive Director for The Mondavi Center. “She was always warm to everyone in her sight. She wasn’t up on a pedestal even though she could’ve been because she had done so much in her life.”

Margrit and her husband were huge contributors in making Northern California, in particular Davis, a renowned hub for culture, wine and the arts.

“Their gifts to this campus have no equal and completely changed the access to performing arts for students, Davis and the surrounding region of Northern California,” said Dr. Roger Boulton, professor of viticulture and enology, via e-mail. “The Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine Science transformed our research and teaching environments and provided the philanthropic leadership that has inspired others to follow.”

Although not a UC Davis alumni, Margrit became heavily involved with campus affairs. She actively participated in fundraising campaigns and frequented shows at the Mondavi Center with UC Davis faculty.

The Mondavis also established scholarships for students in both the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and the College of Letters and Science. Margrit would often hold dinners for these students to talk about their ongoing studies.

“Margrit continued to be very involved with the campus,” Roth said. “She was on the campaign cabinet for the last billion dollar campaign we completed and she herself made a gift to the Manetti Shrem [Museum of Art]. She really felt connected to the students, [and] she regularly came to [The Mondavi Center] for performances.”

Margrit and her generous contributions to UC Davis will leave a legacy for future students to enjoy.

“Margrit’s lasting impact on UC Davis is multifaceted,” Keister said. “She is the matriarch of philanthropy for this campus. She really got this university to think differently about fundraising and she’s inspired a generation of philanthropists.”


Written by: Lindsay Floyd – campus@theaggie.org


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