Webster University’s Daniel Webster Society Annual Dinner

Webster University hosted its annual Daniel Webster Society Dinner at Bellerive Country Club, Friday, November 15, 2013. The evening marked an opportunity to recognize the commitment of the university’s top donors to the scholarship program and spotlight several student ambassadors. The event’s theme also revolved around fine arts as the 2013 Visionary Award went to Jan and Ronald Greenberg. Dr. Julian Z. Schuster, Provost, Senior Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer gave the keynote address in Dr Beth. Stroble’s absence. Then the night ended with some musical entertainment.

Following Dr. Schuster’s remarks, Ron Bohmer, a Broadway actor and alumnus of the first musical theatre class at Webster University, took the stage and performed a selection from some of his shows. His daughter, Austen Bomner, a current  musical theatre student, accompanied him on a couple of numbers. He concluded with a powerful  version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, sending everyone home on a high note.

The story of Jan and Ronald Greenberg’s relationship with Webster University began in the early 1970’s, when Jan arrived in pursuit of her Master of Arts in Teaching. At the same time, Ronald, an avid art collector, left the real estate development company that he and his brother operated to open the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in St. Louis. When Jan graduated with her MAT in 1973, it could have been the conclusion of the Greenberg’s Webster story, but their leadership, generosity, and spirit made it, instead, only the beginning.

In 2010, Judy Aronson, Webster faculty member in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and a longtime friend of Jan’s, shared with Rick Desloge of the St. Louis Business Journal her memories of how Jan became a Webster adjunct faculty member in 1974. “I was running a program at Webster University,” Judy recalled, “when she put a piece of paper in my pocket and asked me to call her. It was a curriculum for teaching visual arts to teachers. After reading it, I called her and said come teach for me.”

For the next 27 years, Jan provided invaluable instruction to students in the classroom as an adjunct instructor and director of the Aesthetic Education Master of Arts in Teaching program at Webster.

While Jan was in the midst of her life as a wife, mother, teacher, and academic, she penned her first novel for teenage girls, A Season Between, which was published in 1979. This accomplishment transformed and changed the trajectory of Jan’s professional life, with her realization that she was, in fact, now a writer.

As an alumna of the University, it would have been possible for the family’s involvement to have been only with Jan; however, Ronald has also gone above and beyond, in particular, through their generous donation of art throughout the years.

The Greenbergs started their donor relationship with the University 30 years ago with a gift of $25. As the Greenbergs expanded their leadership at Webster, Jan and Ronald became charter members of the Daniel Webster Society (DWS), and Jan joined the DWS Board, at the request of Marie Oetting, who just happened to be Jan’s third grade teacher. It is not easy to turn you third grade teacher down, “And even harder”, Jan explained, “to turn Webster down”.

As their commitment grew exponentially, the Greenbergs donated their first piece of art in 1992, Holiday X. For over two decades, their cherished gifts of artwork have enhanced the University’s collection, encouraged creative innovation for students of the arts, and through Ronald’s dedication and encouragement, inspired others in the art community to support Webster as a regional hub of culture and the arts.

Tom Lang, respected Chair of the Department of Art, Design, and Art History and professor of printmaking in Webster University’s Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts and long-time friend of Ronald, painted a clearer picture of the impact of the gifts of fine art that the Greenbergs have imparted to Webster with the following statement: “Over the years, Ronnie Greenberg’s donations of art have been both generous and thoughtful. The range has given us a survey of work by historically important artists for exhibition, enrichment, and for study”, Professor Lang shared. “With more than 150 paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture that have been donated to Webster University by the Greenbergs on public display, the students, faculty and staff of the University are daily recipients of a permanently enduring visual wealth. The works of art given by the Greenbergs are of very high quality and of significant educational value and also serve as a reminder of Webster’s distinguished donors who understand and love art.”

Because of the Greenberg’s philanthropic impact on Webster’s art collection and her acclaim for her remarkable professional contributions in the literary field, Jan has been recognized with many of Webster’s highest honors. She was honored as the recipient of Webster’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986. She served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1999-2000, and in 2001, was named recipient of the third annual Outstanding Alumni Award for the School of Education, presented to a Webster alumnus who has made extraordinary contributions to the community through his or her profession or field of volunteer service. This reward recognized Jan’s high achievement, enthusiasm, and remarkable track record as a true leader in her field, author of literature for children and young adults.

In 2002, to broaden his commitment to Webster, Ronald served as a member of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts Advisory Board. For over 10 years, Ronald’s leadership helped guide and enhance the College’s education and development mission.

The Greenberg’s story still is being written at Webster as they continue to demonstrate their generosity and leadership at Webster’s art community through service on many different levels.

The Daniel Webster Society Visionary Award was established to recognize the unwavering commitment of individuals who have been indispensable in helping advance the institutional mission of Webster University. This year, Webster is pleased to present the Visionary Award to Jan and Ronald Greenberg in recognition of their decades of committing their professional passion, expertise, artistic enrichment and philanthropy with Webster. Their example embodies what it means to share your time, talent and treasure in unwavering commitment to Webster’s mission.

Webster University, a worldwide institution, ensures high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global leadership and individual excellence. For more information about the Daniel Webster Society or Webster University, please contact Heather Arora at 314-968-5986.