FILE -In a Jan. 17, 2012 file photo Beverly Sorenson watches 6th graders at William Penn Elementary practice dance at the school in Salt Lake City. Arts Sorenson, a longtime philanthropist, advocate for arts education and member of one of the wealthiest families in Utah died Mondauy, May 27, 2013, at 89 of natural causes. (AP PHOTO/Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) (AP Photo/The Deseret News,Jeffrey D. Allred, file ) SALT LAKE TRIBUNE OUT; MAGS OUT
Updated: June 13, 2013 12:37AM
SALT LAKE CITY — Beverley Taylor Sorenson, a longtime philanthropist, advocate for arts education and member of one of Utah’s wealthiest families, has died at age 89.
Ms. Sorenson died Monday of natural causes at her home in Holladay, family spokesman Jacob Moon confirmed Tuesday.
Ms. Sorenson and her late husband, James L. Sorenson, created the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which has donated millions to cultural, educational and scientific projects in the state. In recent years, Beverley Sorenson spearheaded a campaign to restore arts education in Utah elementary schools.
In a statement, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called Ms. Sorenson “one of our finest matriarchs.”
“Always the dedicated teacher, her extraordinary life has made a difference for thousands of Utah schoolchildren through her tireless support of arts education,” Herbert said.
She was born April 13, 1924, in Salt Lake City and grew up during the Great Depression, according to a statement from the family. A longtime lover of the arts, Beverley Sorenson danced as a child and later paid for her college tuition by playing piano accompaniment at a ballet school.
She graduated from the University of Utah in 1945 and met James Sorenson while teaching kindergarten in New York. They married soon after and had two sons and six daughters.
James Sorenson went on to become a multibillionaire medical inventor, businessman and philanthropist. He was Utah’s richest man when he died in 2008.
Together, the couple created the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which has poured millions into philanthropic causes, including large university gifts in recent years. In 2008, the foundation gave a $15 million donation to the University of Utah for a biomedical and neurosciences building and $12 million for an arts and education complex.
Earlier this year, the foundation gave $6 million to Southern Utah University for a multimillion-dollar arts center.
Beverley Sorenson also established a foundation to support arts education in Utah elementary schools. The state Legislature in 2008 allocated money for a program named in her honor, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, to utilize an arts teaching model she supported.
The program now serves students at about 130 elementary schools in the state.
For her work, Ms. Sorenson had been recognized with numerous philanthropic awards and six honorary doctorate degrees.
She is survived by her eight children, 49 grandchildren and 65 great-grandchildren.