In Loving Remembrance of Jacqueline Avant

Jacqueline Avant and Clarence Avant arrive as The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills honors distinguished artists and sisters, Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad at “A Tale of Two Sisters,” at The Wallis, which serves more than 70,000 audience members annually held in Beverly Hills, CA on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Photo: Benjamin Shmikler/ABImages)

December 3, 2021

Dearest Friends,  

We at the Wallis Annenberg Center for The Performing Arts are stunned and devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of beloved Wallis Board of Directors and Education Committee member, community leader, and distinguished philanthropist Jacqueline Avant.  

As a steadfast champion of the arts and a resident of Beverly Hills for more than 50 years, “Jacquie,” as she is affectionately called by family and friends, and her husband Clarence Avant have been vital and intimately-involved supporters of The Wallis since its inception as a nonprofit in 1994 – a full two decades before The Wallis opened for its inaugural season. A passionate supporter of The Wallis’ arts learning programs, GRoW @ The Wallis, Jacquie was an inspirational, generous and kind woman whose work benefitted innumerable lives. She was a fixture at The Wallis, attending countless performances over the past seven years with her husband. Our hearts go out to Clarence and her children, Alexander and Nicole. 

Jacquie led a singularly interesting, expansive, and community-oriented life. Born Jacqueline Alberta Grey in Jamaica Queens, New York, Jacquie’s early career ran the gamut—she was a phlebotomist; she modeled for The Ebony Fashion Fair in one of the first high-fashion shows to feature primarily Black models. Jacquie’s philanthropy, too, was deeply rooted and a core value which suffused her entire life. In 1974, she served as a chairwoman for National Organization of Women (NOW) membership, and in 1975 she served as President of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center. Throughout the years, Jacquie also served on a variety of Boards throughout Southern California, including the Museum of African American Art of Los Angeles, the International Student Center at UCLA, and of course, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. She was also an avid collector of Japanese lacquered art and her pieces have been selected for exhibitions by top museum curators. 

More personally, nearly every single Wallis Board and staff member had a direct connection to and relationship with Jacquie. She is remembered by all of us as a truly considerate person who had kind words and a smile for every person with whom she interacted. She was a woman of great integrity, grace, humility and character; her purposeful work and significant contributions to the community will resonate with all of us for many years to come. 

Just prior to the pandemic, Jacquie celebrated her 80th birthday with gusto. She was surrounded by family and friends for this auspicious occasion at which she asked everyone to make generous contributions to The Wallis as her birthday wish. It was a simple and selfless gesture, which had a huge and lasting impact on The Wallis’ education programs.

We will remember Jacquie fondly and mourn her loss deeply even as we seek to honor her — both today, and as we look to the future.

With profound gratitude for a life meaningfully lived,

Your Friends at The Wallis