YA Mourns the Passing of Arts Education Visionary Betty Wold Johnson

Grounds Circle Founding Reception honoring Marilyn Grounds in September 2009. Pictured, L-R: Betty Wold Johnson, Archer Harvey, Tom Harvey, and Marilyn Grounds

Grounds Circle Founding Reception honoring Marilyn Grounds in September 2009. Pictured, L-R: Betty Wold Johnson, Phyllis Marchand, Tom Harvey, and Marilyn Grounds

A steadfast YA supporter who’s legacy will continue to inspire children for many years to come.

We mourn the loss of Betty Wold Johnson, steadfast supporter and the organization’s most generous benefactor. Betty was introduced to Young Audiences in the 1970s by former chair and current trustee Marilyn Grounds. Betty attended YA performances at area schools and annual showcases, delighting in the children’s deep engagement and joy at experiencing the wonders of live performance. Marilyn shared:

Betty Johnson was special in so many ways. She cared deeply about people, in particular children, their education, and improving their lives. After participating in an arts experience, Betty would share her joy, enthusiasm, and her new-found knowledge. She has benefited multitudes of people, and we are all so thankful for her enormous generosity.

A savvy and visionary supporter, Betty helped transform the organization with a $1 million challenge grant to establish an endowment – the largest gift to YA in the organization’s 40-year history. Inspired by her generosity, YA went on to raise over $3.1 million. Larry Capo, YA’s former President & CEO, who led the endowment campaign, shared:

Betty leaves behind a legacy that supports her belief in the value and necessity of the arts in young people’s lives and education. Her decades-long generous support of Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania continues to inspire our mission to reach every child in our region. She was a wonderful friend and thoughtful advisor, and we celebrate her extraordinary life.

In a recent conversation with President & CEO Michele Russo, Betty recollected witnessing the transformative power of the arts in a preschool class. With support of a YA teaching artist, a typically reticent and shy child surprised teachers with a moment of courage when she led the class in a drumming circle. The child’s teachers were stunned and moved by her engagement; they’d never seen the child take the lead before.

For all the ways she supported Young Audiences and for her abiding belief in the power of the arts, Betty will be remembered fondly at YA, and her legacy will continue for years to come.