Léni Fé Bland passed away at her home on Sunday evening, December 14. She was 99 years old, and just a few weeks shy of what would have been her 100th birthday.
As a philanthropist, a humanitarian, and patron of the arts, Baroness Fé Bland had few equals. The foundation she formed to sponsor scholarship awards for promising classical musicians and vocalists gave $2 million to over 1,500 artists over a span that stretched more than 20 years, in what was only one of the more visible of the countless acts of generosity and support she performed throughout her life.
Fé Bland was an important donor to the renovation of the Granada Theater and of the New Victoria Hall. She helped found the State Street Ballet, and was an enthusiastic donor and patron of CAMA, the Santa Barbara Symphony, Opera Santa Barbara, UCSB Arts and Lectures, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Although music, dance, and theater were core passions for Léni Fé Bland, she supported social programs generously as well. She not only donated to such organizations as Casa Esperanza, Transition House, and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, she was also known to arrive at mealtime ready to work in the kitchen with the other volunteers and visit with the people coming through the shelters.
Her close friend and frequent collaborator Sara Miller McCune described Fé Bland as someone who “saw the big picture, but never lost her awareness of the fact that at any moment there are people among us who live in sorrow and despair. When we were together, Léni would share her concerns about what was wrong with the world, and she would talk about how corrections could be made, and about what specifically could be done to make Santa Barbara an even better place.”
“In England, Léni Fé Bland was a chartered accountant, and during the war she became the managing partner of her firm,” McCune went on. “At that time, women just didn’t do that sort of thing. But that was Léni, and, as with everything she took on, Léni saw, Léni could, and Léni did.”