World-renowned artist and USC alumna and benefactor Gayle Garner Roski died Oct. 21 in Los Angeles. The namesake of the USC Gayle Garner Roski School of Art and Design and the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC was 79.
“Gayle was such a lovely person, a true Trojan, and beloved throughout our community. She touched countless lives and will be deeply missed,” USC President Carol L. Folt, PhD, said. “Her passion for the arts helped transform the cultural life of our university — much as she did in Los Angeles as a champion of art and artists. She was a special inspiration to generations of students, who saw her love of the arts and who benefitted from her mentoring.
“We’re honored that our School of Art and Design will forever bear her name — and that a century from now, artists will still learn about her life and cherish her story.”
As longtime patrons of the arts community in Los Angeles, she and her husband, USC Trustee Edward P. Roski Jr., pledged $23 million in 2006 to what was then the USC School of Fine Arts. At the time, the gift was the largest single donation to a visual arts school in the U.S., and the school was officially renamed in her honor. The gift enabled the school to expand its faculty with world-class appointments, increase student fellowships and enhance technological support for undergraduate teaching.
“Gayle will be remembered as a driving force in the USC and Los Angeles arts community,” said Haven Lin-Kirk, dean of the USC Roski School. “She was a deeply compassionate and generous patron and a true angel to our school. As a talented artist herself, she spent her life inspiring and supporting young artists and designers — most especially our students.
“We will continue to honor Gayle’s dedication to the arts and arts education as we pass her passion on to emerging creatives long into the future.”
In 2016, the Roskis made a landmark $25 million gift to endow and name the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC, which helped solidify the institute’s position as one of the nation’s leading centers for advanced vision care, research and education.
The donation had a deep personal meaning for Roski. A plein-air watercolorist whose work has been featured around the globe, she received cataract treatment at the institute. After the surgery, Roski’s ability to see color and light values dramatically improved and she realized how cataracts had affected her paintings and changed how she used color.
Born in 1941, the Los Angeles native studied fine arts at USC, where she met her future husband — now chairman and CEO of Majestic Realty and co-owner of the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. Both graduated in 1962 and were married that same year.
Roski used her paint to tell stories, often drawing from her travels across the world. Her work can be seen in the cafeteria of Keck Hospital of USC, as well as at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
In a career that spanned more than half a century, Roski illustrated seven books and held numerous solo shows. Her art career coincided with her civic dedication. She headed public art projects throughout Los Angeles, including the Community of Angels Sculptural Project and at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. She also served on the executive board of the California Art Club.
Roski is survived by her husband; daughters Patricia Reon Roski ’86 and Katrina A. Roski; son Edward P. Roski III and his wife, Colleen; and eight grandchildren.
— Grayson Schmidt