Honoring Conrad Prebys
With heavy hearts we share the news of the passing of philanthropist Conrad Prebys. His family issued the following statement today:
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys. Our beloved Conrad passed away on Sunday, July 24 at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego with loved ones by his side, following a courageous battle with cancer. Born with a giving spirit, Conrad’s deep generosity has helped strengthen and enrich the community in many important ways, including health care, medical research, music, theater, youth services, and wildlife preservation. Survivors include life partner Debbie Turner. We ask for privacy during this time of loss.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Conrad Prebys was raised in a blue collar, ethnic, working class neighborhood where the mindset was to complete high school and then work in the local factories of Studebaker or Bendix. When he was eight years old, he developed a heart condition which doctors said would force him to lead a sedentary life and leave him unable to do manual labor. His parents decided that he should learn to play the piano as a way to make a living as an adult.
The turning point in his life was meeting an inspirational high school drama teacher who exposed him to culture and the arts. The teacher was also influential in encouraging Conrad to further his education. Conrad was the first of five brothers to attend and graduate from Indiana University. He was also the first in his neighborhood to go beyond high school. To this day, Conrad attributes his appreciation for the theater, music and his success in business to this inspirational teacher.
Starting from his first job delivering newspapers at the age of eight, Conrad became a successful entrepreneur with Progress Construction Company and various real estate enterprises in San Diego. He was inspired to share his good fortune with the San Diego community.
His generosity included capital and operating gifts to Scripps Health, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the San Diego Zoo, the Old Globe Theatre, UCSD Music Centre, the La Jolla Music Society, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego and Orlando Florida, the Salk Institute, Indiana University, San Diego State University, San Diego Museum of Art and Masterpiece Theater. Conrad’s other interests included classical music, travel and football.
Ranch & Coast Magazine most recently highlighted The Conrad, a future state-of-the-art performing arts center and the eventual permanent home of the La Jolla Music Society, to which Prebys donated $20 million.
Our hearts go out to Debbie Turner, and to all who knew and loved Conrad Prebys. We are forever grateful for all he did to make San Diego the vibrant city to live and work in that it is today. There is no question that he has left an incredible, indelible impact for our future generations.
Photo by Vincent Knakal