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Michael Towbes: In Memoriam

1929 - 2017

Known for his keen mind, savvy business sense and big heart, Michael Towbes is remembered as one of the most influential real estate developers, bankers and philanthropists in Santa Barbara County. While Towbes’ generosity and influence will have a long-lasting impact on the community, his ability to lead and inspire others, even in the smallest ways, will be most celebrated in his legacy at the Santa Barbara Foundation.

“Every once in a great while there is a person amongst us who serves as a model of a life well lived. Not just in his or her capacity to embrace opportunity and celebrate the best in the human spirit, but because they serve as an example of what is to be a responsible, engaged and compassionate human being. That was Michael Towbes,” said Ron Gallo, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “I feel honored to have known him. Santa Barbara will not be the same without his presence, but thankfully, generations to come will benefit from his enduring legacy.”

Towbes served on the Board of Trustees for the Santa Barbara Foundation from 1986-1995 and served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees in 1992 and 1993. During his time on the Board, he served as a guiding force for the foundation’s Investment Committee, helping lead and grow the foundation’s influence in the community.

“Michael Towbes was Chair of the Board at a time when the Foundation was making some significant changes,” said Chuck Slosser, former President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Prior to his tenure we only made capital grants to our nonprofit partners. Due in large part to his influence, our grantmaking expanded to include program, operating, collaborative, as well as capital support. He also encouraged us to start The Foundation Roundtable and the Partnership for Excellence Conference. He was truly a visionary leader who had a major impact on the foundation’s changing role in the community.”

In 2012, Towbes established the Towbes Fund for Performing Arts at the Santa Barbara Foundation to support arts organizations countywide. Each year, the fund distributes close to $500,000 to arts organizations across the county. This fund benefits organizations, such as Notes for Notes and Girls Rock Santa Barbara, which introduce youth to the wonders of artistic expression, music and theatre, and help them develop their best qualities. It also provides people of all ages and incomes with the opportunity to attend and participate in the artistic programs made possible by many of these organizations.

“Michael Towbes is a shining inspiration as a businessman, a philanthropist and a man deeply dedicated to his family and his community,” said Jim Morouse, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Santa Barbara Foundation. “His legacy shines brightly through many organizations, in particular the many arts organizations who have benefited from his wisdom and steadfast support, and Santa Barbara is a better place for his vision and engaged philanthropy.”

In addition to the Towbes Fund for Performing Arts, Towbes held a donor advised fund with the Santa Barbara Foundation that expanded his contribution beyond the arts. He was also a member of the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Legacy Society and was honored as the 1994 Man of the Year recipient.

“It was a gift to be able to support and participate in the philanthropic work of Mike Towbes,” said Jan Campbell, Chief Philanthropic Officer and Senior Vice President at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Everything he did, he did with integrity, thoughtfulness and grace. His generosity and vision is woven throughout our community and we will remember his amazing legacy of giving to the Santa Barbara Foundation and numerous local nonprofits for generations to come.”

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