Kristen Avansino, Reno philanthropist and president of the Wiegand Foundation, has died
Reno and University of Nevada philanthropist Kristen A. Avansino, a Reno dance teacher, died Sunday after she was hit by a car in a crosswalk earlier in the week in San Francisco. She was 76 years old.
Avansino served as President and Executive Director of the EL Wiegand Foundation and Executive Director of the Edwin L. Wiegand Trust. The Wiegand Foundation, established in 1981, has been a major contributor to dozens of projects under Avansino’s leadership, including the Wiegand Fitness Center at UNR, the Holy Child Learning Center in Reno, the Hall Saint-Vincent dining hall and the Bishop Manogue Catholic high school science center. School.
“His philanthropy in the community and at the university has been transformational,” said UNR President Brian Sandoval. “Kristen’s deep commitment to the arts has opened doors for so many, and she has helped bring countless visual artists and performers to Northern Nevada.”
Before directing the EL Wiegand Foundation, she was a dance teacher at UNR from 1971 to 1980, during which she formulated and implemented the dance program, and an assistant dance teacher from 1989 to the present day, as a lecturer and guest choreographer for dance performances at UNR.
She served as president and executive director of Arte Italia in Reno, now closed, a museum that featured exhibits of Italian art and Italian chefs for culinary experiences and cooking classes.
She has also served on the San Francisco Ballet Board of Directors since 1992.
She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Skip Avansino, her daughters Calgary Avansino and Marisa Avansino, and five grandchildren.
The family said in a statement that they lost their “sweet and lively wife, mother and Nonna” on Sunday.
“We will always remember her dazzling smile, sparkling eyes, endless creativity and infectious enthusiasm,” the statement read. “She was a magnetic and elegant woman who spread positivity with every interaction, and we will lead the rest of our lives in her example and walk proudly in her path. We are eternally grateful for the gift of her love.”
Frank Fahrenkopf, family friend and trustee of Wiegand, said: ‘I cannot overstate the loss we all feel. Kristen was a compassionate and dynamic presence and a true tour de force for good. His ability to make things happen was second to none and his work was all over Nevada and beyond. “
Sallie Armstrong, local attorney and president of the board of trustees at Sage Ridge School in Reno, said Avansino was “intuitive and great.”
“I admired his thoroughness and was inspired by his intelligence and vision,” she said.
Avansino was born in Oakland and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in dance from Mills College in Oakland. She earned a doctorate in humanities from UNR in 2016 and a doctorate in education from Roger Williams University in 1999.
Avansino was appointed to represent Nevada on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and served from 2003 to 2008. She has served as a trustee of Carroll College, Cate School, YMCA des United States, UNR and the Nevada Art Museum.
The Weigand Foundation is the philanthropic trust of Edwin L. Wiegand, inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He died in 1980. Wiegand developed and manufactured heating elements for household appliances which are still used in electrical appliances.
Services for Avansino are pending.
Under Avansino as President of the Wiegand Foundation, projects completed include:
- Wiegand Fitness Center at the University of Nevada, Reno
- Holy Child Early Learning Center
- Bishop Manogue Catholic High School Science Center
- Saint-Vincent dining room
- EL Wiegand Early Learning Center on Foster Drive
- EL Wiegand Gallery at the Nevada Museum of Art
- EL Wiegand Heart Center at Saint Mary’s Hospital
- New gymnasium at Sage Ridge School
- Arte Italy
- Lyon County Boys and Girls Club
- Boys and Girls Club of Humboldt County
- EL Wiegand Gallery at the Museum of Northeastern Nevada
- EL Wiegand Western Folk Center in Elko
- Bishop Gorman Catholic High School
- Cleveland Cleveland/Lou Ruvo Institute for Brain Rehabilitation Center
- Betty Ford Center
- Wiegand Creativity Center in Helena, MT
- Wiegand Hall at the Western Folklife Center
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read his journalism here. Consider supporting his work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.