Honoring Extraordinary Vision, Distinguished Leadership, and Artistic Achievement
The Leadership Award was established by the WAA Board of Directors in 1985 as The Distinguished Service Award. In 1992, the board presented the first award to Jerry Willis and rechristened the award in his honor. Jerry Willis (1938-1997) co-founded the organization now known as Western Arts Alliance with Betty Connors. For 27 years, he managed CalTech Public Events and was a driving force for presenting in the West and nationally.
Recognizing Exceptional Volunteer Service to Western Arts Alliance, its Members, and the Field
The Service Award was established in 1992 to honor Betty Connors, a co-founder of Western Arts Alliance and this award’s premier recipient. Mrs. Connors (1917-2009) led the Committee for Arts and Lectures (later, Cal Performances) at the University of California, Berkeley, for 35 years. When Mrs. Connors was hired in 1945, it was the first salaried position devoted exclusively to the management of concerts at UC Berkeley (and likely the first at any public university in the West)
Recognizing Excellence in Mentoring and a Commitment to the Professional Advancement of the Western Performing Arts Community
The Mentoring Award was originally established in memory of Darlene Neel, the 26-year Company Manager of the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company. Ms. Neel (1941-1999) was known to be a generous mentor, a principled manager, an innovator, and—above all—a good friend.
Distinguished Service Award
Honoring Members who have made an outstanding impact on the performing arts touring and presenting field in the West.
The Distinguished Service Award, WAA’s first, recognizes leaders in the touring and presenting field. WAA resurrected the Distinguished Service Award in 2013 to recognize David Fischer, a colleague whose leadership and service defies categorization.