It is with much sadness that I share news of the death of Evelyn D. Haas. A great and marvelous friend to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and, indeed, to the community at large has been lost today. It would be impossible to overstate the generosity that Evie demonstrated to SFMOMA during the 50 years she was involved with this institution—from the myriad masterpieces she placed in our collection to her advocacy that led to construction of our landmark building and the unparalleled example of public philanthropic commitment she established.
Evie was the longest serving Trustee on our Board, joining in 1972. She began at SFMOMA as a volunteer in the 1950s. She served as the Board Chair (1982-1983), President (1981-1982 and 1984-1986), Vice President (1975-1980), and Membership Activities Board Chair (1961-1962). She also served as the Women’s Board (now the Modern Art Council) President (1970-1971). She played an early and very important role in strengthening SFMOMA.
Evie was instrumental in increasing the museum’s membership, and she, along with her late husband, Walter, figured prominently in SFMOMA’s successful capital campaign in the early 1990s to build our new, internationally acclaimed museum. Evie’s civic leadership was characterized by her devotion to making art accessible to everyone.
Evie was a great lover of modern and contemporary art who graciously donated to the museum works including Richard Diebenkorn’s Berkeley #59 (1955); Carleton E. Watkins’, Mirror View of Upper Yosemite Fall, 1,600 Feet, Yosemite (ca. 1878-1881); Untitled (Desert) and Untitled (Galaxy) from the portfolio Untitled (1975) by Vija Celmins; and Tête et Feuille; Tête et Vase/Kopf und Blatt; Kopf und Vase (Head and Leaf; Head and Vase) (1929) by Jean Arp, to name just a few. In 1997, the museum established the Evelyn D. Haas Exhibition Fund, which supported exhibitions that often resulted in record-breaking attendance including Degas to Picasso; Magritte; Keith Haring; Diane Arbus: Revelations; Chuck Close: Self-Portraits; Picasso and American Art; Matisse: Painter as Sculptor; Frida Kahlo; Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities; and most recently, 75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show.
Evie also provided leadership and philanthropic support to numerous other Bay Area cultural, educational, and medical institutions. She was a leading advocate for the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Season of Sharing Fund. Her involvement in the annual fundraising campaign began in 1986, when Walter approached the Chronicle to launch the special fund to benefit Bay Area individuals and families who need emergency financial assistance. After Walter’s death in 1995, she became even more active in the campaign and was one of its most vocal and steadfast proponents, writing personal letters each year to hundreds of friends and colleagues urging them to help their Bay Area neighbors in crisis.
Evie was a Life Governor of the San Francisco Symphony after having served for more than 40 years as a volunteer and trustee. Additionally, she was an emeritus board member of the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation and also served on the board of San Francisco Children’s Hospital. She served as a trustee of the War Memorial Board since 1978 at the appointment of six San Francisco mayors.
Together with Walter, Evie established the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in 1953 as a private foundation. Their philanthropy was influenced by the lessons he had learned in helping to make Levi Strauss & Co. a model corporate citizen. The Fund focuses on five areas: immigrant rights and integration, gay and lesbian rights, education opportunity, leadership, and community initiatives.
Evie was born Evelyn Danzig in 1917 and raised in New York City. Her father was a Governor of the NY Stock Exchange and her mother was an amateur writer. In 1940 she married Walter Abraham Haas, Jr. They met at a dance in New York and were married just before Walter went to serve four years in the Army during World War II. She earned her bachelor-of-arts degree from Wheaton College in 1939, was awarded Alumna of the Year in 1985, and received an Honorary Doctorate from the school in 1989. In 1979 Evie wrote the book Wade a Little Deeper, Dear: A Woman’s Guide to Fly Fishing. She was introduced to the sport by Walter.
Our heartfelt condolences go immediately to Evie’s family and friends. Her generous spirit, enthusiasm, and dedication to SFMOMA will be missed by us all.
—Neal Benezra, SFMOMA Director