Palisadian Mitzi Blahd Gifts $1 Million to Santa Monica College

By Libby Motika
Palisades News Contributor

This grateful student did more than thank her professor on graduation day or cite her school as having changed her life. No, this grateful student, Palisadian Mitzi Blahd, has given $1 million to the Santa Monica College Foundation honoring retired SMC political science professor Harvey Stromberg.

The gift will provide scholarships in Stromberg’s name and fund “living history” short films of eight SMC Emeritus students, produced by the award-winning SMC film production program.

Pacific Palisades resident and philanthropist Mitzi Blahd speaks at an SMC Board of Trustees meeting. Blahd donated $1 million to the SMC Foundation in Professor Harvey Stromberg’s honor.

Pacific Palisades resident and philanthropist Mitzi Blahd speaks at an SMC Board of Trustees meeting. Blahd donated $1 million to the SMC Foundation in Professor Harvey Stromberg’s honor.

“The scholarships and films will not only provide extremely deserving students an opportunity to expand their world beyond their wildest expectations, but also record for posterity the incredible life stories of some of our Emeritus College students,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superin- tendent/President and Foundation member.

Blahd and Stromberg’s friendship began in an unexpected way, which as it turned out, was destined to occur.

“In the 1970s, my husband and I were major travelers,” Blahd recalled. “I’d go to the bank for travelers checks and one day, the bank clerk asked me where I was going this time. I said China, and the clerk asked me if I’d ever heard Harvey Stromberg’s lecture on China. As it turned out, we were leaving in two days for our trip, but signed up for his class upon our return.”

Blahd and her late husband, Dr. William Blahd, brought slides from their recent trip to China to share with the class. Later, that evening, the three enjoyed pie and coffee at a local café and began a friendship that would last for decades.

“He is such a great teacher . . . that’s why he stands out,” Blahd says. “His current events class at SMC’s Emeritus College is so popular the school has to shut off attendance at 100 students.”

Philanthropy started early for Blahd, who remembers her first fundraising effort at age 10. “I baked cookies and invited 25 neighbors to come hear me play Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ I raised $2.50 and sent it to a children’s hospital in Denver. That was the beginning of my philanthropic career and it has never stopped.”

Blahd has kept her hometown in mind with her largesse. Her Herculean efforts toward spearheading a fundraising campaign to build a new public library in Pacific Palisades yielded over $1 million towards funding a beautiful and highly functional new building that replaced the old one, opening in 2003.

She was honored with a Golden Sparkplug Award from the Pacific Palisades Community Council in 1999 for leading and working prodigiously to raise the necessary money. Towards that goal, she initiated numerous fundraising library events and galas in the ensuing years.

Left to right: Lizzy Moore, SMC Interim Dean of Institutional Advancement; Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President; Mitzi Blahd; Harvey Stromberg; and Gita Runkle, Dean of SMC’s Emeritus program where Stromberg teaches and Blahd is a student.

Left to right: Lizzy Moore, SMC Interim Dean of Institutional Advancement; Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President; Mitzi Blahd; Harvey Stromberg; and Gita Runkle, Dean of SMC’s Emeritus program where Stromberg teaches and Blahd is a student.

In 2002 she was named Citizen of the Year for her continuing enthusiasm and hard work on the library.

After Blahd retired from the Friends of the Library board, she continued her support for activities close to her heart. She has sponsored programs for Chamber Music Palisades, the local series founded by Palisa- dians Susan Greenberg and Dolores Stevens.

A key to Blahd’s giving is a personal connection. Two years ago, she donated $50,000 to the Pacific Palisades Historical Society in honor “of my dear friend, Betty Lou Young,” a historian and author who was a Rustic Canyon neighbor. The gift, with no strings attached, has been used for the digital archiving of the old photographs from the Historical Society/Clearwater collection. The collection will be archived at the Huntington Library.

“I like to give money to the things that people benefit from and give them pleasure,” she says.

Half of Blahd’s $1-million gift will go toward establishing the Harvey Stromberg Leadership Scholarship and will provide 10 students with $500 scholarships annually in perpetuity. Through the Stromberg Scholars for Dale Ride Internships endowment, the gift will provide four $5,000 internships annually to send selected SMC students to Washington, D. C. for eight weeks. Blahd will be able to select the committee that chooses the worthy students.

The other half of the gift will fund the “Living History” films.

“We have no doubt that Mitzi’s gift will be “the gift that keeps on giving,” said Lizzy Moore, SMC Interim Dean of Institutional Advancement.

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