Sustaining the Arts and Beyond Donor Gives Charitable Gift Annuity to SOU

Sustaining the Arts and Beyond: Donor Gives Charitable Gift Annuity to SOU

Julia Sommer is no stranger to the influential power of music. From briefly playing cello with the Rogue Valley Symphony to singing with Southern Oregon Repertory Singers since 2006, Julia has found significant joy in music and the performing arts. She performed with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus for many years.  

Music is how Julia first connected with SOU after relocating from San Francisco in 2004. She immediately began attending the summer chamber music workshops at SOU and jumped at the opportunity to hear world-class chamber music presented by SOU’s Chamber Music Concerts. Julia was also happy to find SOU’s far-ranging JPR station upon arrival and soon began volunteering as a newscaster for the Jefferson Daily. While settling into her life in Ashland, she also discovered SOU’s superb theater program.  

Julia created two charitable gift annuities that will fund Jefferson Public Radio and the university’s music, dance, and theater programs in perpetuity. The gift annuities provide quarterly payments to her, and any residual amount remaining at her death supports the SOU programs. “Support what you value. It’s a win-win strategy. The CGAs give me sound financial footing and the joy of giving back,” she said. 

Since moving to Ashland, Julia has continued to write plays, poetry, short stories, and currently freelances with She has also served on Ashland’s Transportation Commission, volunteered in the schools, taught classes at OLLI, and become active in local politics. 

Julia’s family immigrated from England to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1953 when she was five. After high school, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for college before dropping out and hitchhiking to San Francisco in 1968. She says coming of age during that time was both exciting and terrifying. While singing lead in a rock ‘n roll band, taking part in anti-war demonstrations, and doing temporary office work, she also managed to graduate with an English degree from UC Berkeley in 1970.   

Fresh out of university, Julia worked as a statistical typist at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. She then worked as an editor at Sunset magazine and California Farmer magazine. After a stint working in public relations for Children’s Hospital of San Francisco, Julia settled into higher education as a writer, editor, and publicist for the California College of Arts and Crafts, Stanford University, and, finally, her alma mater, UC Berkeley. Julia received lay ordination at Berkeley Zen Center in 1999 and retired early to devote more time to Zen Buddhist practice at Green Gulch and Tassajara monasteries and San Francisco Zen Center.   

Julia says of giving, “SOU’s music and theater departments and JPR punch way above their weight and add so much to Ashland’s quality of life. I’m happy I can support them, now and after I die.”