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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 2:44 am | Fair 42º


Philanthropist Leaves $1.8 Million Bequest to Santa Barbara Zoo

California Plaza in the zoo's new California Trails exhibit will be named in honor of Alma Pearson and her husband

Alma Pearson
Alma Pearson (Brian Stetham photo)

Longtime local philanthropist Alma Pearson, who died at age 96 in November, left a bequest of $1.8 million to the Santa Barbara Zoo in her will. The zoo is one of several organizations named as beneficiaries.

The funds are undesignated, and in honor of the gift, the zoo will dedicate California Plaza, the center of the new California Trails exhibit, to the memory of Alma and Clifford Pearson.

The new $7.5 million exhibit complex, featuring California condors and other endangered or threatened species from the Golden State, opened on Earth Day this year.

“Santa Barbara Zoo is honored to be the recipient of such a generous gift from the Pearsons,” zoo CEO Rich Block said. “We feel it is fitting for the couple to be remembered at the center of California Trails at California Plaza, as they were longtime supporters of the Santa Barbara Zoo and so many California institutions. The plaza will be surrounded by naturalistic benches so that friends of the couple can come to the zoo and remember this generous and caring couple.”

Alma and Clifford Pearson married in 1942, and the couple remained together until his death in 1999. Among other interests, they were major donors to California Lutheran University projects, including the library that bears their name at the Thousand Oaks campus.

— Julia McHugh is the public relations director for the Santa Barbara Zoo.

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