Orange County Arts Philanthropist William Gillespie Dies at 79

December 15, 2020 Updated: December 15, 2020

Orange County philanthropist William J. Gillespie has died, leaving behind a legacy of patronization for the arts. He was 79.

Gillespie was a significant supporter of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, the largest nonprofit arts organization in Orange County.

“Everyone at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Gillespie. He was incredibly generous in fostering the creative process and, in particular dance,” the Segerstrom Center said in a statement. “His support came in many ways, but it was most often about sharing the beauty of the arts.”

The Segerstrom Center contains six performance venues and the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School. The school opened in September 2015, providing American Ballet Theatre training and performances in a diverse and culturally rich artistic setting. Gillespie helped fund the school since its inception.

Gillespie was described by the Segerstrom Center as a “generous” man for his years of support, including the $2.5 million gift of an organ in the concert hall in 2006. The organ was named the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, in his honor.

He also helped support the International Dance Series, a series of performances by several ballet companies from throughout the world.

Gillespie, a longtime Laguna Beach resident, donated to many other arts organizations throughout Orange County, including the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale, South Coast Repertory, Orange County Philharmonic Society, the Laguna Dance Festival, and the dance program at the University of California–Irvine.

Gillespie’s death was announced at a Segerstrom Center staff meeting on Dec. 11. No cause of death was given.