Established in 1988, the Cal Poly “President’s Arts Award” celebrates excellence and support for the arts, both on-campus and throughout greater San Luis Obispo. Designed to foster collaboration, enhance partnership for artistic endeavors and promote university-community engagement, this prestigious accolade recognizes all forms of artistic expression. The award underscores the university’s commitment to elevate artistic expression and foster a vibrant cultural landscape, while honoring creators and contributors alike. This tribute is embodied in “Pinnacle of Achievement in the Arts” sculpture by Cal Poly Art & Design emeritus professor Crissa Hewitt, symbolizing the union of creativity and prestige, located in the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo.

2024 | Trudie Safreno

Trudie Safreno was awarded the 2024 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award in recognition of her dedication and philanthropy to the enrichment of San Luis Obispo’s cultural experience. Safreno has served on the board for the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art as well as serving on the board for the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center for 10 years. Safreno has also served on the Central Coast Performing Arts Center Commission and provided leadership and guidance during the COVID pandemic. Trudie and her husband, Ty, have been generous contributors to the arts, namely the Performing Arts Center student matinee program, helping to make possible the opportunity for 10,000 local students to experience the performing arts in the San Luis Obispo community each year. Their generosity also extended outside of the Performing Arts Center as their unbelievable contribution led to the opening of the Trust Automation Plaza in 2024. Trudie’s impact will be felt for years to come both inside and outside of the Performing Arts Center, but also across the San Luis Obispo cultural landscape.

2015 | Ron Regier

Ron Regier was awarded the 2015 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award in recognition of his contributions to presenting and sustaining arts and culture within the community. His journey toward receiving this prestigious accolade is marked by a longstanding commitment to arts learning and community engagement, beginning with his tenure as director of The Commons in Columbus, Indiana and as the director of Cal Poly Arts from 1987 to 1995.

In 1995, he assumed the responsibility of opening and managing the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, a role he fulfilled until his retirement in 2015. During this time, the PAC flourished into a vital resource for both the university and the broader community. It served as a dynamic platform for local artists and organizations while also attracting renowned global talents to perform.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Regier’s dedication to community service further distinguishes him. His involvement in various civic organizations, including as president of the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, as a founder of the San Luis Obispo Youth Sports Association and service on various SLO city commissions, underscore his commitment to enhancing the quality of life in the region.  Regier remains actively engaged in enriching the cultural fabric of San Luis Obispo through his volunteer advisory role with the SLO Repertory Theatre capital campaign. His enduring legacy of service and dedication continues to inspire and leave a lasting impact on the community.

2008 | Candace & Bert Forbes

In recognition of their outstanding contributions to the enrichment of San Luis Obispo’s cultural landscape, Candace and Bert Forbes were honored with the 2008 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award. Their pivotal role in the growth and success of the Performing Arts Center SLO has been truly remarkable. Through their generous donation for the construction and installation of the Forbes Pipe Organ in Harold Miossi Hall, they not only demonstrated their commitment to artistic excellence but also fostered a sense of community engagement and pride among local volunteers. Referred to affectionately as the “free unloaders,” community members lovingly carried pipes and other parts of the organ from semi-trucks onto the stage in Harold Miossi Hall. The Forbes not only provided a tangible symbol of artistic excellence but also fostered a sense of community ownership and pride among local volunteers. Moreover, the Forbes’ continued support as Founder-level contributors, as Legacy Members of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), and as sponsors of the pipe organ concert series has been instrumental in ensuring the center’s continued vitality and impact. Their dedication to the PAC has not only solidified its reputation as a cultural hub but has also inspired an ethos of philanthropy and community involvement that resonates throughout the region. The Forbes’ legacy of generosity and commitment to the arts will continue to shape and enrich the lives of countless individuals for years to come.

2003 | Sheila & Yosef Tiber

Sheila and Yosef Tiber’s illustrious contributions to the arts have earned them the esteemed 2003 Cal Poly President's Arts Award, a testament to their enduring commitment to nurturing creative expression. The Tiber’s were among a handful of visionaries whose early dedication and diligence led to the founding of the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo. Yosef Tiber served on the board of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), from 1997 to 2001. “Throughout their time in this community, Yosef and Sheila Tiber have brought passion and generosity to their many commitments, not least of which has been the artistic and cultural life of San Luis Obispo County,” said Warren Sinsheimer, who served with Yosef Tiber on the board of directors for FPAC. Sheila and Yosef Tiber were charter subscribers and contributors to Cal Poly Arts, a major campus arts presenting organization under Cal Poly’s umbrella. “Sheila and Yos Tiber were an unflagging source of support, encouragement and advice since Cal Poly Arts’ inception,” said Ralph Hoskins, a former director. “They are the most perfect friends an arts organization could ask for: loyal, involved, honest, knowledgeable, generous and enthusiastic. Especially enthusiastic.” Their philanthropic spirit shines through the establishment of the Sheila and Yosef Tiber Scholarship Fund, which has empowered countless aspiring artists at Cal Poly, fostering a vibrant arts scene on the Central Coast and leaving an indelible legacy of inspiration and enrichment.

2001 | John O. Dunn

John Dunn’s pivotal role in the inception and maintenance of the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, coupled with his ongoing commitment to enriching SLO’s cultural landscape, underscores his qualifications for the 2001 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award. As the linchpin between the City, Cal Poly, and the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), Dunn’s stewardship during the PAC’s conception and construction exemplified collaborative leadership and foresight. His subsequent chairmanship of the FPAC board of directors further solidified his dedication to nurturing artistic endeavors. 

John believed that the city government must be honest, competent and caring, the City must be dedicated to improving peoples lives, and that the PAC was essential to a high-quality of life for its citizens and visitors.  With the unwavering support of the city council, in collaboration and partnership with Cal Poly and FPAC, through years of tenacity of purpose and perseverance, collectively a grand and beautiful facility was created – a task which none could have accomplished alone.

Dunn’s current initiatives, notably the expansion of SLO’s “Cultural Corridor” and his voluntary contributions to SLO Museum of Art and SLO Repertory Theatre, speak volumes about his enduring passion for the arts. By championing the cause of public arts funding and emphasizing the importance of collective responsibility in preserving cultural treasures, Dunn embodies qualities of persistence, and unwavering dedication. His multifaceted contributions have left an indelible mark on SLO’s cultural heritage, making him a deserving recipient of the President’s Arts Award.

2000 | Clifford Chapman

Honored with the prestigious 2000 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award, Clifford Chapman stands as a luminary figure whose profound impact on the arts in San Luis Obispo County is unparalleled. His enduring legacy of support spans an impressive array of cultural institutions, including the Performing Arts Center SLO, the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Cal Poly Arts, the Mozart Festival (now Festival Mozaic) and Opera San Luis Obispo, among others. Chapman’s unwavering dedication was evidenced by his multifaceted contributions, which extended beyond financial assistance to encompass hands-on involvement and strategic guidance. As a pivotal figure on the board of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), Chapman played a pivotal role with his early patronage of the PAC and helped lay the groundwork for its continued success. President Warren Baker lauded Chapman’s legendary devotion to the arts, highlighting his role as a cherished friend and benefactor. Whether through hosting successful events at his distinguished residence or offering invaluable counsel, Chapman's steadfast commitment to advancing artistic excellence has left an indelible mark on the community, embodying the spirit of collaboration and cultural enrichment celebrated by the President’s Arts Award.

1998 | Perry & Jim Jamieson

In recognition of their unwavering commitment and profound impact on the arts community, Jim and Perry Jamieson were honored with the prestigious 1998 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award. Jim's visionary stewardship as the executive director for the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), from 1987 to 1995 laid the groundwork for a thriving cultural facility in San Luis Obispo. His strategic foresight and collaborative approach were instrumental in realizing this long-awaited dream of the Performing Arts Center SLO, elevating the region’s artistic landscape to new heights. Meanwhile, Perry’s artistic prowess and entrepreneurial spirit left a lasting mark on the Central Coast’s cultural fabric. As a co-founder of Artemis - A Theatre Company, she brought innovative productions to life, showcasing her talent as a visual artist and scenic designer. Perry’s contributions extended beyond the stage, enriching exhibitions and productions at esteemed venues. Together, Jim and Perry Jamieson epitomized the spirit of artistic partnership and community engagement, leaving a lasting mark on San Luis Obispo’s cultural heritage.

1996 | Craig Russell

Craig Russell, recipient of the 1996 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award, epitomizes a dedication to artistic excellence that transcends academic spheres and cultural landscapes. Beginning his tenure at Cal Poly in 1982, Russell’s journey to international acclaim is a testament to his unwavering dedication to research and creativity.  His illustrious career is marked by a collection of accolades, from prestigious university honors to international recognition. 
Russell’s impact transcends traditional academic boundaries, as evidenced by his pioneering courses that delve into the rich tapestry of music history, from The Beatles to the evocative melodies of Latin America. His scholarly endeavors have garnered him esteemed recognition, with publications earning accolades such as the Edna Kimbro Award and the Norman Neuerburg Award, illuminating California’s cultural heritage with depth and insight.
Russell’s influence extends to his compositions performed on prestigious stages across the globe. From the hallowed halls of Carnegie Hall to the majestic expanse of the Sydney Opera House, Russell’s music has enraptured audiences, reaffirming his status as a luminary in the realm of artistic expression. The President’s Arts Award serves as a fitting tribute to Russell’s enduring legacy, celebrating his indelible mark on the artistic fabric of Cal Poly and the wider community.

1995 | Joan & Bill Clark

Joan and Bill Clark’s remarkable contributions to the arts community earned them the esteemed 1995 Cal Poly President's Arts Award, epitomizing a harmonious blend of dedication, generosity, and passion for the arts. Joan's unwavering commitment to fostering cultural vibrancy is evident through her foundational role in the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival (now Festival Mozaic) and the Performing Arts Center SLO. Her multifaceted talents as a painter and pianist mirror her relentless pursuit of artistic excellence. Moreover, her patronage of the Kennedy Center during her tenure in Washington, D.C., underscores her enduring support for the arts at both local and national levels. Bill's profound affection for the community resonates through his creation of Serra Chapel on the family ranch, a sanctuary where musical experiences continue to flourish. Their shared devotion to enriching the cultural landscape is further manifested in their transformative gift of the BLAZONCEIL, a historic Spanish ceiling, to the PAC through the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC). Through this gift, Joan and Bill ensured the perpetuation of cultural heritage and tradition, enriching the architectural landscape with a symbol of historical significance and artistic ingenuity.

1994 | Warren Sinsheimer

Warren Sinsheimer was awarded the 1994 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award in recognition of his instrumental role in the development of the Christopher Cohan Center in San Luis Obispo. His involvement began in 1985 when he joined local arts advocates in proposing the transformation of a downtown parking lot into a performing arts facility. As a result, the SLO City Council commissioned a feasibility study leading to the realization that, while there was considerable community enthusiasm for construction and operation of such a facility, it would be a huge challenge for the city alone to build, operate and maintain it. The study suggested partnering with Cal Poly.  This initiative led to the establishment of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), a non-profit organization dedicated to fundraising and collaborating on the design, construction, and operation of the center.

Through Warren’s leadership as the initial president of FPAC, crucial partnerships were forged between Cal Poly, the City of San Luis Obispo, and the foundation. His efforts were pivotal in securing community support and navigating the complex process of bringing the Cohan Center to fruition. From negotiating agreements to fundraising to overseeing design decisions and management structure, Warren played a central role in every aspect of the project’s planning.

The President’s Arts Award honors Warren’s commitment to advancing the arts and fostering collaboration between the university and the broader community. His vision and dedication were essential in realizing San Luis Obispo’s dream of a new performing arts center.

1993 | Robert Reynolds

Robert Reynolds, a landscape painter hailing from San Luis Obispo, CA is celebrated for his profound contributions to the realm of art, earning him the esteemed 1993 Cal Poly President's Arts Award. With a keen focus on capturing the pristine beauty of California’s natural landscapes, Reynolds’ subject matter often delves into the picturesque coastlines of Morro Bay and the burgeoning vineyards that adorn the region. His artistic prowess extends beyond borders, with his paintings adorning collections not only across the United States but also internationally.

Reynolds’ accolades are a testament to his mastery, with his work gracing the covers and pages of esteemed publications such as The American Artist, The Artist Magazine, and Watercolor Magic, among others. His talent has been recognized through prestigious awards including the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Cal Poly President’s Art Award, alongside his tenure as the former department chairman of the renowned Art and Design Program at Cal Poly.

A graduate with honors from the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles and later a recipient of a Masters Degree from Cal Poly, Reynolds’ commitment to artistic excellence is unwavering. His influence resonates not only through his captivating paintings but also through his role as a Professor of Art/Emeritus at Cal Poly, where he continues to inspire future generations of artists.

1992 | Lyn & Aaron (Jim) Baker

Lyn and Aaron Baker, distinguished recipients of the 1992 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award, exemplify a steadfast commitment to the enrichment of artistic endeavors in the community. Lyn’s visionary leadership was instrumental in the development of the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, where her involvement on the steering committee ensured an inclusive and accommodating space for all patrons. Her dedication to volunteerism and philanthropy extended far beyond the confines of the university, as evidenced by her multifaceted roles on various boards, including the Cambria Community Health Care District and the Foundation for the SLO County Library. Aaron, an avid supporter of the vocal arts, left an indelible mark through his participation in SLO Master Chorale and his fervent advocacy for Cuesta College. Together, Lyn and Aaron embraced a spirit of exploration, embarking on journeys that spanned the globe, enriching their understanding of diverse cultures and artistic traditions. Lyn’s enduring curiosity and genuine compassion for others served as guiding principles throughout her life, fostering meaningful connections and leaving an enduring legacy of artistic excellence and community engagement.

1991 | Clifton Swanson

Clifton Swanson’s illustrious career at Cal Poly epitomizes a lifelong dedication to the arts and academic excellence. With a tenure spanning over three decades at Cal Poly, he has significantly contributed to the university's cultural landscape. Initially focusing on music appreciation and history, Swanson’s passion for orchestral music led him to assume leadership roles within Cal Poly’s music department, including conducting the Chamber Orchestra and engaging with the San Luis Obispo Symphony, where he served as music director and conductor. His pivotal role in co-founding the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival (now Festival Mozaic), a cornerstone of the local arts scene, showcases his visionary leadership and dedication to fostering artistic collaboration. Additionally, his involvement in shaping Cal Poly’s London Study Program and his many matchless contributions to the design of the Performing Arts Center SLO underscore his multifaceted impact on university and community artistic endeavors. Swanson’s numerous accolades, including the Outstanding Liberal Arts Professor and the Cal Poly President's Arts Award, underscore the profound impact of his contributions to both academia and the local arts scene. Swanson’s legacy reflects the profound respect and recognition garnered by his tireless efforts in advancing the arts within the university and the broader community.

1990 | Barbara & John Hartman

Barbara and John Hartman, recipients of the 1990 Cal Poly President’s Arts Award, are remembered for their profound dedication to the arts and their pivotal role in the realization of a pipe organ for Harold Miossi Hall in the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo. Their visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to enhancing the cultural landscape laid the groundwork for a legacy that continues to resonate. Despite the tragic loss of their lives, the Hartman’s passion for supporting artistic expression endured. Their generous pledge of funds toward the construction of the pipe organ exemplified their dedication to fostering collaboration and elevating the arts. This contribution, combined with the altruism of local philanthropists Bert and Candace Forbes, culminated in Fisk Opus 129, a magnificent instrument and a shared dream that transcends generations. The melodies that now reverberate throughout the PAC serve as a poignant reminder of the Hartman’s enduring legacy and their timeless devotion to enriching the artistic experience for all.

1989 | Arne Nybak

In 1989, Arnie Nybak’s illustrious journey through the world of art was honored with the prestigious Cal Poly President’s Arts Award, a fitting tribute to his lifelong dedication to nurturing creativity and enriching the cultural environment of San Luis Obispo. From his formative years as a protege of David Erickson, a student of Whistler, Nybak’s artistic odyssey was marked by unwavering passion and relentless pursuit of excellence.  Nybak’s influence extended far beyond the strokes of his own brush; it permeated the very essence of the Central Coast’s artistic community. As a founding member of the San Luis Obispo Art Association, his visionary zeal played a pivotal role in establishing the Gray Wing. Serving as the curator, Nybak meticulously prepared and presented exhibitions that showcased the finest artistic talents, providing a permanent sanctuary for artistic expression, which stands as a testament to his commitment to fostering a vibrant artistic community. Through his artistry and leadership, Nybak has left an indelible imprint on the cultural landscape of San Luis Obispo, embodying the spirit of collaboration and creativity that lies at the core of the Cal Poly President's Arts Award.

1988 | Peggy & Gerald Peterson

In 1988, Gerry and Peggy Peterson were honored with the inaugural Cal Poly President's Arts Award, recognizing their unparalleled dedication to fostering artistic excellence and community enrichment in San Luis Obispo, CA. Gerry’s pioneering spirit as Cal Poly's first student in the Electronics Department, post-World War II, coupled with Peggy’s illustrious career as an educator and tireless advocate for the arts, laid the foundation for their extraordinary contributions. Together, they played pivotal roles in establishing the San Luis Obispo Symphony and the Performing Arts Center SLO, transforming the region into a vibrant hub of cultural activity. The Petersons were PAC Founder donors, contributing to the ‘First Wave.’ Peggy joined the PAC Commission, representing the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center (FPAC), in 2007. Peggy’s leadership within the symphony, spanning over five decades, and Gerry’s steadfast support as a successful entrepreneur underscored their shared commitment to advancing the arts. Their philanthropic endeavors extended far beyond monetary contributions, encompassing a deep-seated belief in the power of education and community engagement. Through their boundless generosity and unwavering dedication, the Petersons left an enduring legacy that continues to enrich the lives of countless individuals throughout San Luis Obispo and beyond.