Jaylee Mead, D.C. Arts Philanthropist, Dies at 83
By Robert Simonson
Jaylee Mead, who, with her husband Gilbert, gave millions of dollars to arts organizations throughout the Washington, D.C., area, died Sept. 14, of congestive heart failure. She was 83.
Gilbert Mead, who died in 2007, was an heir to the Consolidated Papers fortune. He and Jaylee met at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where he was a geophysicist and she was an astronomer. Beginning in the 1980s, they emerged as the foremost theatre patrons in Washington.
The Meads contributed to nearly every major theatre organization in the city. Their $35 million gift to Arena Stage, which went toward remaking the company's complex, was the largest, single, private gift ever bestowed on an American stage. They also donated funds to the Studio Theatre, which could be said to owe its existence to the Meads, as well as Signature Theatre, the Kennedy Center, the Atlas Performing Arts Center and the Flashpoint performance space downtown.
"It’s just like in Hello, Dolly!," Dr. Mead once told The Washington Post. "Money should be spread around, like manure. Dolly Levi says that, and I really believe it."
The Meads were honored by having several theatres and buildings around town emblazoned with their name, including: the Mead Theatre inside the Studio Theatre complex; the Mead Theatre Lab for experimental plays at the Flashpoint cultural center in downtown Washington; the Mead Lobby at Signature Theatre in Arlington County; and the Arena Stage at Mead Center for American Theatre, which opened in 2010. The couple's largesse was often credited with reviving once moribund neighborhoods.
Jaylee and her husband were known for the dinners and cast parties they held in their Watergate apartment for local theatre professionals.
Dr. Mead chaired or served on the boards of Arena Stage, Studio Theatre, the Washington Theatre Awards Society, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the National Children’s Museum.
She is survived by three stepchildren, Betsy Mead of Silver Spring, Diana Mead of Chapel Hill, NC, and Stanton W. Mead II of Middletown, MD; a sister; and five grandchildren.
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