The Palm Beach Atlantic University community lost a true friend and long-time supporter Monday upon the death of Helen K. Persson. She was 95.
“On top of her many accomplishments, it should be noted that Helen Persson made a career of caring,” University President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. said. “She was most gratified when she was sharing her considerable talents and earned treasure to help others succeed.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Mrs. Persson was a pediatric nurse until she joined the U.S. Navy, from which she eventually retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Then she began making a difference in other ways.
She studied opera in New York and Milan and sang professionally with the San Francisco Opera. She was involved with scholarship programs with the Metropolitan Opera National Council. Mrs. Persson received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Colgate University in 1984, which recognized her support of opera and volunteer work at hospitals.
Mrs. Persson’s philanthropic interests in the Palm Beaches included the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, where she established the Helen Persson Opera Enhancement program. She served on the boards of the Kravis Center and the Palm Beach Opera.
As a former nurse, Mrs. Persson had a special interest in healthcare. She served as a volunteer for more than 18 years at Good Samaritan Medical Center, where the 25-unit Labor Delivery Recovery Postpartum (LDRP) area is named the Helen K. Persson LDRP.
Mrs. Persson established an endowed scholarship to help students training to be nurses and to assist continuing nursing education. In her honor, the Division of Nursing at Good Samaritan Medical Center is called the Helen K. Persson Division of Nursing.
Palm Beach Atlantic University honored Mrs. Persson at its annual Women of Distinction luncheon in 1996. The following year, she sang the National Anthem at the University’s Commencement ceremony which preceded remarks by evangelist Billy Graham. PBA awarded her an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, in 2001.
In 2002, Palm Beach Atlantic’s Board of Trustees named the Helen K. Persson Recital Hall in the Vera Lea Rinker Hall in recognition of Mrs. Persson’s faithful philanthropy, her affirmation of the Christian principles on which the University founded, and her encouragement of the highest standards of music scholarship and performance.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 22 at 10:30 am at the Lost Tree Chapel with Dr. Ken Mahanes officiating. Music will be provided by Dr. Lloyd Mims.
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