Jeannik Méquet Littlefield, prominent patron of the arts, has died in San Mateo, CA, at the age of 92.
Born in Paris and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, Mrs. Littlefield came to the United States as a foreign exchange student at Barnard College in 1939. She continued her education stateside, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in English from Wells College in Aurora, NY, and a master's degree in English from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Already fluent in French, German, Russian and English, she began studying towards a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1943 she joined the war effort as a translator, and moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the French Air Mission. There she met Edmund Wattis Littlefield. The two married the following year.
After the war, the Littlefields moved to Burlingame, where Mr. Littlefield joined a family firm, Utah Construction Company, as Financial Vice President, soon becoming CEO of what became one of the largest mining and construction companies in the country. In 1976, the company (now Utah International, Inc.) merged with the General Electric Company in what was the largest merger in U.S. corporate history at the time. Mr. Littlefield stayed on at G.E. as a board member and served many other corporate boards over the course of his career.
As her husband's work increasingly involved extended stays abroad, Mrs. Littlefield joined him on business trips to South America, Australia and Japan, but she also became involved in her own community. She served as a board member of the San Francisco Opera from 1977 to 1992, and was also involved with the Symphony and the Ballet. Her support of the San Francisco Ballet's New Production Fund was instrumental in the 2004 world premiere of Mark Morris' Sylvia, the 2009 world premiere of Helgi Tomasson's Swan Lake, and the recent May 2013 US premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella. The Littlefield Foundation continues to be an ongoing supporter of a variety of arts and education.
Following her husband's death in 2001, Mrs. Littlefield moved to San Mateo, where she renewed her connection with Bay Area organizations, especially the San Francisco Opera, where she has sponsored productions since 2002. Her 2006 pledge of $35 million to the Opera was the largest donation from an individual to an American opera company at that time. Mrs. Littlefield was an ongoing supporter of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes both the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum. In addition to sponsoring the show Women Impressionists at the Legion of Honor, she was the Grand Patron of the recent exhibits at the de Young Museum of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay.
In addition to the arts, Mrs. Littlefield enjoyed golf, bridge, and skiing. She was a popular member of the Vintage Club and a frequent visitor to The Living Desert, a wildlife preserve in Indian Wells, CA where she had a winter home. She found a spiritual home late in life at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco. She took great joy from in her support of education, including the French-American International School, Wells College and Mills College.
Mrs. Littlefield was the eldest daughter of Gustave Méquet, a translator for the League of Nations who spent much of World War I in a German prison camp, and his wife Jeanne, a college graduate with an abiding interest in music, chemistry and physics. Gustave and Jeanne had two other daughters, Jacqueline and Renée, both of whom are now deceased.
Mrs. Littlefield is survived by two children: a son, Edmund Wattis Littlefield, Jr. and his wife Laura of Arlington, Washington; and a daughter, Denise Sobel of New York City; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Mrs. Littlefield's second son, Jacques Méquet Littlefield, passed away in 2009.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, July 31st, at 11 am at St. Dominic's Catholic Church, 2390 Bush Street, San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts to the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Food Bank, or a charity of your choice .
(Click to enlarge images. Opera image source http://bunnym.blog.sohu.com/99235080.html Wedding image source http://library.weber.edu/asc/ucc/founders/images/edjeannik.jpg Family image source http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/i/partypictures/10_14_08/320-Denise-Sobel,-Jeannik-L.jpg)