Pasadena Community Foundation Funds

Peggy Phelps Endowment

Peggy Phelps

Former Pasadena Community Foundation board member Peggy Phelps was a passionate patron for arts organizations in the Pasadena area and beyond. Her board service with PCF between 1995 and 2004 was just one of many roles that showcased her longstanding commitment to the Pasadena area. Peggy was a founding member of PCF’s Friends & Fellows Fund and was instrumental, in 2002, in the recruitment of Jennifer DeVoll as executive director of the Foundation. The Peggy Phelps Endowment supports PCF’s local grantmaking programs.

Dedicated to Pasadena’s Arts Organizations

Margaret Taylor was born in 1926 in Buffalo, New York; she went by “Peggy” from a young age. She attended boarding school in Farmington, Connecticut and then studied art history at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She met her first husband, Mason Phelps, a U.S. Marine, during World War II. They married in 1947 and had three children: Mason, Jr. Evans, and Taylor Phelps. The family moved to Pasadena, California in 1959, and Peggy soon became very involved in the art scene in Pasadena.

Peggy with Mason, Jr., Evans, and Taylor, her three children, 1959.

Peggy was a founding member and past president of the Fellows of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, a decades-long member and past president of the Pasadena Art Alliance, and former board member of both the Pasadena Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Once a trustee of the former Pasadena Art Museum (which became the Norton Simon Museum), she was elected to the board of fellows of the Claremont University Center and Graduate School, where she was a longtime advocate for the arts; the university honored Peggy by naming one of its galleries after her. She was also a docent for the ArtCenter College of Design.

Peggy (left) with Susan Caldwell, another important arts advocate, who served leadership roles at The Armory Center for the Arts and the Pasadena Art Alliance.

An early advocate for AIDS patients

Following the death of her youngest son, Taylor, to AIDS in 1995, Peggy became a longtime supporter of the AIDS Service Center in Pasadena, which began as a hotline on an answering machine in 1987 during the early era of the AIDS crisis, and eventually flourished into a multi-million-dollar social service agency that served thousands of people with AIDS.  She was the founder in 1990 of La Posada, an annual candlelight march that raised millions of dollars over the years for HIV research and for patients of the AIDS Service Center.

A life of travel, adventure … and many honors

Ms. Phelps had a prominent thirst for travel and adventure. With her second husband, Nelson Leonard, she traveled the world. She kept meticulous travel journals, documenting her exploits in Africa, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Bali, New Zealand, and Japan. She took many art trips and started an art travel program with the Pasadena Art Alliance. She even did wilderness courses with Outward Bound in middle age, then joined the company’s national board and paid the way for her grandchildren to take Outward Bound, too.  Nelson and Peggy were happily married for 14 years until he died in 2006.

Peggy Phelps on an outdoor adventure with her husband Nelson.

Peggy received many honors during her lifetime in recognition for service to her community. Awards included the California Confederation of Arts Award in 1986, for her extraordinary contribution to the arts in the city and community of Pasadena; the Volunteer of the Year Award by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives in 1987; the Pasadena Arts Council Gold Crown Award in 1989; the Pasadena YWCA Second Century Award for her outstanding contributions to volunteer service in 1992; and the 1997 Arthur Noble Award from the City of Pasadena to  her “notable service to the city in promoting the beauty or general welfare of the city during that calendar year.” Peggy died in 2020 at the age of 93.

Endowments are the cornerstone of PCF’s mission to build hometown legacies. The corpus of each endowed fund is invested with PCF’s portfolio for long-term growth. Each year, the endowments generate the funds that support PCF’s local grantmaking, which enriches the arts community, protects our environment, provides health care and critical social services, and bolsters public education in Pasadena. Endowments are permanent legacies for our community; these funds will continue to grow and provide philanthropic support forever. Learn more about creating an endowment at PCF.

Created 2016

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