Cal Performances honors Earl Cheit, longtime trustee and friend of the arts

The Dec. 5 Takacs Quartet concert at Hertz Hall ended with an honor and a rare encore, as Professor Emeritus Earl (Budd) Cheit, founding chair of the Cal Performances Board of Trustees, was presented with the organization’s Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts and an unexpected final act.

Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky presents award to Earl Cheit.

Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky presents award to Earl Cheit.

The campus award is given to an individual whose contributions demonstrate exceptional achievement in the performing arts. After presentation of the honor, Cheit was given the singular experience of sitting on stage, among the musicians, as they played Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C major, K. 465, the “Dissonance” Quartet.

“This is your true reward for your years of great service to the performing arts and your special relationship with the Takacs Quartet,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, the director of Cal Performances. Tarnopolsky noted that Cheit, “for his long-time commitment to the arts, credits his wife, June” — who “taught him to always to read the arts section of the newspaper first.”

Cheit, who also served the campus as executive vice chancellor, began his long association with Zellerbach Hall during its construction, when he created and chaired a board that developed a budget for the new facility and oversaw its use. When he later returned to the business faculty, he served as a member of the Committee for Arts and Lectures.

After Robert Cole was appointed in 1986 to lead the campus’s performing arts program, Cheit — then dean of the business school — chaired for 10 years a faculty/student advisory committee created to aid the new director.

In 1996, with an expanded range and number of offerings, and increased reliance on private support, the advisory committee was replaced with a governing Board of Trustees; Cheit was elected its founding chair. He has continued to be an active member of the Cal Performances board since that time, and helped to hire Cole in 1986 and Tarnopolsky in 2009.

Cheit is the fourth recipient of the performing-arts award, after Bill Zellerbach, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, and soprano Renee Fleming.