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SLSO Mourns the Passing of Dr. Virginia V. Weldon, former Board Chair

The entire St. Louis Symphony Orchestra community is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Virginia “Ginny” V. Weldon, a remarkable leader and former Chair of the SLSO Board of Trustees who led the institution with vision and grace. Weldon passed away in St. Louis on May 23, 2024, at age 88.

 

Dr. Virginia "Ginny" V. Weldon

A trailblazer in the field of pediatric medicine and science, Weldon was first elected to the SLSO Board in 1992 and was elected Chair of the Board in 1999, serving in that role from 2000 to 2005 and leading the SLSO into a transformative era and onto a path of long-term sustainability. Over the course of more than a dozen years, Weldon served to strengthen the SLSO’s artistic profile and financial standing. 

 

An opera and symphonic music lover, Weldon guided the SLSO away from a near-bankruptcy situation in the late 1990s, spearheading an effort to secure a $40 million challenge grant from Jack C. Taylor and his family, putting the institution on the path of financial stability through an endowment growth that has become a model in the industry. The gift, cultivated by Weldon, was the single largest to an American orchestra at the time. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch praised Weldon’s leadership of the crisis in a December 2000 editorial, calling her a “visionary.”

 

Though faced with extraordinarily challenging circumstances, Weldon was undaunted. She approached the SLSO’s financial crisis with tireless resolve and a forthrightness with the public that earned the respect of her peers and the community, said John R. Jordan, Jr., an SLSO Honorary Trustees who served alongside Weldon as Treasurer on the Board.

 

“Everybody had great admiration for Ginny,” Jordan said. “She was a very courageous person, undeterred by anything. Her work ethic and dedication to the community were demonstrated by the fact that she moved into the SLSO President’s office and stayed there, working tirelessly until the institution was back on track.”

 

By the conclusion of her tenure as Board Chair, Weldon shepherded a nearly seven-fold growth of the SLSO’s endowment from $18 million to $125 million.

 

“The symphony wouldn’t be here today without Ginny and the Taylor family,” Jordan said.

 

Weldon’s handling of the SLSO’s financial crisis was one of many accomplishments that marked her tenure.

 

“Ginny was a force of nature, a leader with remarkable intellect who showcased extraordinary tenacity during her decades of involvement at the SLSO,” said Marie-Hélène Bernard, SLSO President and CEO.

 

Beyond her steady-handed guidance of the SLSO through the financial crisis, Weldon was instrumental in securing the artistic future of the orchestra, attracting David Robertson to St. Louis as the SLSO’s 12th Music Director, a position he would hold from 2005 to 2018.

 

“This is a major turning point,” Weldon told the Post-Dispatch in 2003 of Robertson’s appointment. “It will take us to a whole new level of excellence.”

 

Jordan also commended Weldon for her strength in networking and recruitment, attracting influential St. Louisans to the organization and nurturing a culture of excellence. A staunch supporter of the SLSO after her tenure as Board Chair concluded, Weldon remained engaged as a concertgoer and advisor to the SLSO, looking forward to the completion of the expansion and renovation of Powell Hall.

 

At the conclusion of her tenure as Board Chair, Weldon was named an Honorary Trustee, a position she held until her passing.

 

“Ginny was the right person at the right time for the SLSO,” Jordan said. “She balanced a lot and made all the right decisions in the process.”

 

Outside her vital position with the SLSO, Weldon’s distinguished career resulted in numerous awards and merits, including an appointment to the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology by President Bill Clinton, and the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology. She devoted her time and talents to the boards of many organizations and was a founder of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. She was a leader in clinical research and pediatric endocrinology at Washington University in St. Louis for more than 20 years, also serving as vice president of the Washington University Medical Center for nearly a decade.

 

Weldon is survived by her husband Francis Austin; two daughters, Ann Weldon Doyle and Susan Weldon Erlinger, and their families; and many friends.

 

The SLSO’s 145th season will be given in Weldon’s memory. The SLSO plans to dedicate one of its performances as a celebration of her life and lasting impact on the SLSO.

 


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