A beloved local philanthropist, passionate classical music champion, and long-time supporter of Ventura College, Miriam Emily Schwab passed away at the age of 89 on December 24, 2017. Miriam played the violin with the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra for over a decade. She also started the Henry Schwab Violin Competition, named after her late husband, Henry, who was a decorated concert violinist and a dedicated violin and viola teacher until his death in 2006. This annual event sponsors young violinists up to the age of 25, providing encouragement and financial assistance to fund their arts educations.

Mariam Schwab playing violin
Miriam Schwab's Quote

To the average outsider, Miriam may have appeared to be a feisty and frugal senior Venturan who liked to pull her own weeds and ride her bicycle through her beloved Pierpont neighborhood. Little did anyone know that unassuming Miriam would make a bequest of $12 million through her estate to Ventura College or that her donation would become the largest financial gift ever to any community college in Southern California’s history.

The generous gift comes at the perfect time for Ventura College and its music program. While schools across America are scaling back on or entirely eliminating music from their curriculum, Ventura College will now proudly enhance its music program – making it one of the premier community colleges for music education in all of California.

Eighty-five percent of Miriam’s gift will go to the Ventura College Instrumental Music Program, including funding for a permanent violin and viola competition, a sustainable year-round symphony orchestra, and the creation of a Summer Music Institute of Instrumental Music.

“We are grateful for Miriam for her long-time support of Ventura College and her generous donation,” says Ventura College Foundation Executive Director Anne Paul King. “Miriam understood the power of education and the arts. Her legacy will continue at the college for decades to come.”

Ventura College Music Chair and Symphony Conductor Robert Lawson knew Miriam for more than 25 years and remembers her fondly.

“Miriam was a very determined, sweet person with a vision,” says Robert. “Her passion was for students to learn instrumental music, particularly string instruments.” The creation of the Summer Institute of Instrumental Music will ensure that high performance levels are maintained during the summer that will carry forward throughout the entire academic year. “Her gift will enable us to provide better instruction and more opportunities for beginning, intermediate, and advanced training.”

To further celebrate Miriam’s life and love of music, the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra decided to open its new season with a memoriam concert — and to perform the entire concert season in Miriam’s honor.

The other 15 percent of Miriam’s record-setting gift has been earmarked to support the Ventura College Aquatics Program. Miriam left the specifics of the aquatics gift to the Ventura College leadership to craft.

“This gift will go a long way to build and enhance aquatics opportunities for Ventura College students,” says Ventura College President Dr. Damon Bell. “It is a wonderful surprise to receive this additional support. We’re honored that Miriam chose Ventura College.”

As uncomfortable she would have been about the attention her gift has received, Miriam would be extremely proud if her generosity inspires others to give from the heart.

If you dream about making a difference, a planned gift can make it happen! Innovative and tax-wise, a planned gift can provide financial security for you and your family, establish a lasting personal legacy, and make a difference in the lives of future Ventura College students.

Talk to your financial or legal advisor to learn which assets will or will not trigger taxable income when paid to a beneficiary. Donors of planned gifts to the Ventura College Foundation are members of the George McNeely Legacy Society (GMLS). GMLS membership is one way the Ventura College Foundation is able to thank you during your lifetime for your planned gift.

Contact Gerry Pantoja, Director of Major and Planned Giving at the Ventura College Foundation at 805-289-6158 or email: for further information. If you name us in your plans, please list Ventura College Foundation, Federal Tax ID: # 77-0037747.