A $1.5 million leadership gift to the UCSB Arts & Lectures program has been announced by Miller-McCune Executive Director Celesta Billeci.

Speaking at a June 10 reception to launch the 2011-12 season, Billeci announced that the program had recently received the largest gift in its history from well-known local philanthropist and businesswoman Sara Miller McCune.

“Sara has been an extremely generous supporter of Arts & Lectures for many years,” Billeci said. “She has an acute understanding of the value of our program to the university and the Santa Barbara community, and her commitment to our success has always been unwavering.”

McCune’s gift is a combination of endowment and current use funds that establishes an endowment to name the Arts & Lectures executive director position — now the Miller-McCune executive director of Arts & Lectures — and it also provides operating funds to help support programming over the next several years.

McCune is well-known throughout the region for her philanthropy, and particularly her support for arts-related organizations. A former trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, her many gifts to the university encompass a variety of disciplines, including programs and initiatives in the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences.

“Sara is a truly visionary philanthropist,” said Verena Leu Young, senior director of development for Arts & Lectures. “Her gift will help to ensure that Arts & Lectures can maintain the programming excellence that the Santa Barbara community has come to expect of us.”

Billeci added: “Sara’s gift is a strong testament to the value of Arts & Lectures, and an important investment in the future of our program. I am deeply grateful for her support.”

— Meghan Bush represents UCSB Arts & Lectures.