Laguna College of Art and Design receives huge estate gift from Terry Smith and Wayne Peterson

Wayne Peterson, left, and Terry Smith are honored at a Laguna College of Art and Design event.
Wayne Peterson, left, and Terry Smith are honored at a Laguna College of Art and Design Collector’s Choice event. The late pair have left more than $1.8 million to the school.
(Courtesy of Laguna College of Art and Design)

Terry Smith and Wayne Peterson lived life in the public eye.

It is fitting then that part of their legacy will be their support of the Laguna College of Art and Design.

Art, often work meant for public consumption, was close to their hearts, and as philanthropists, the late couple did plenty to support it. Their impact is still being felt after their passing.

Laguna College of Art and Design announced that it has received an estate gift in the amount of more than $1.8 million from Smith and Peterson.

Laguna College of Art and Design President Jonathan Burke, who will retire at the end of the year after 11 years in that role, said he chokes up when thinking about Smith and Peterson, remembering the meals that they used to share outside meetings of the college’s board of trustees.

“They wanted to hear what was new at LCAD, what we were planning, how students were doing, were there any students in need, what our plans were for the future, and they always asked what were the most pressing needs of the students,” said Burke, who has been on the faculty at the college since 1980. “They had such confidence in LCAD, in our vision, that we were a unique art college and committed to the success of each student, and they wanted to participate in that and give to that.”

Burke said that Smith and Peterson had a home “filled from practically floor to ceiling” with artwork from the college’s students and faculty, as well as the Laguna Beach community. He said that most of the art the couple owned will now be part of the college’s permanent collection.

“When they went into studios and they saw something that they liked, they would buy it, knowing that those dollars would help a student survive, be able to get gas, [be] able to support themselves [or] pay for rent.”

The Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Canyon.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Smith, who died in September 2016, previously served on the college’s board of trustees, and it was among his final requests that contributions be made to the college. He also chaired the college’s Development Committee and the Collector’s Choice Committee.

Peterson, who passed away last September, served on the Laguna Beach City Council from 1992 to 2000, including a term as mayor. He also spent time on Laguna Beach’s Design Review Board and Planning Commission.

“Wayne and I served on the City Council at the same time,” current Laguna Beach Councilwoman Toni Iseman said. “It was remarkable that two people from Fremont, Neb., would find their way to Laguna and serve together. We often canceled out the other’s vote, but Wayne was always a gentleman, never disrespectful.”

“Terry and Wayne were the ‘millionaires next door,’” Iseman added. “They worked hard and didn’t flash their money. They led with joy and enthusiasm.”

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow also shared fond memories of the couple’s public service.

“[Wayne] always came up with creative and clever solutions to difficult problems, and he was fair,” Dicterow said. “He could see both sides of an argument and create balanced solutions. Terry was a true art lover and served on our Arts Commission.

“It is no surprise that they would leave their hard-earned fortune to LCAD. They loved LCAD and wanted to see it be a world-class institution, which it is, and with their gift, it will continue to be.”

Terry Jones, the chairman of the board of trustees of the college, said that it is yet to be decided how the sizable monetary gift will be utilized, adding, “Everybody who knew Wayne and Terry can rest assured that the gift will be used to directly benefit our students.” The school does have a long-term plan to add a student center.

“Wayne and Terry, they really understood the power of philanthropy and everything they did, they led by example,” Jones said. “They were really instrumental in inspiring others to give to support the college. If ever there was a special project, they always stepped forward first, and in fact, this is the largest gift that the college has ever received.”

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