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Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Announces 2015 Piper Trust Encore Career Prize Awardee

November 6, 2015

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Announces 2015 Piper Trust Encore Career Prize Awardee
Champion for Children and the Arts, Russ Perlich, Founder of Act One, Receives Award

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Russ Perlich, founder of a nonprofit that creatively addresses inequity in public schools, has been named Awardee of the 2015 Piper Trust Encore Career Prize. This prize, including a $50,000 award, recognizes an inspiring encore career leader, age 50+, who is addressing a major social need in Maricopa County. Perlich’s encore career is dedicated to ensuring underserved students receive arts education and exposure to the performing arts. The innovative Act One expects to serve more than 100,000 students with arts-enriched field trips by the end of the 2015-16 school year.

“Russ Perlich is truly an encore career exemplar. One of the most humble people I’ve ever met, Russ is dedicated to providing an arts-enriched education to underserved children—just as he had throughout his youth in Minnesota public schools,” said Susan Pepin, M.D., president and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “Meaningful arts experiences positively impact the academic performances of children. Those experiences can also strengthen arts and culture in our community by inspiring budding artists and developing our future arts leaders.”

Perlich, 64, founded Arizona-based Quadna, an engineering and mechanical expertise firm, in 1975 shortly after earning his business degree from the University of Arizona. The firm began serving mining industry clients and after 35 years of Perlich’s leadership, it had established offices in several states and Mexico and served a variety of businesses around the world in need of industrial and municipal applications.

In 2011, Perlich and his wife Linda (known as “Mac”), established Act One with seed money from the sale of Quadna. Since then, Perlich has applied his decades of business experience into the growth and development of Act One—the cause and nonprofit stemming from a lifelong passion for the arts

Studies show high-quality arts experiences have a tremendous impact on a child’s academic performance, social skills, and self-esteem. Ongoing school budget cuts have eliminated arts-related field trips, particularly in Title 1 schools where a high percentage of students live in low-income families and qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Students in higher-income neighborhoods typically have the means and opportunities through school or home to attend live performances.

Act One confronts this education opportunity disparity, and what it potentially denies children and society, by supplying arts education curriculums and well-orchestrated field trips to the performing arts. Act One also manages the stewardship of Culture Pass, a statewide program that provides library cardholders free tickets to arts events.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of Arizona State University (ASU) Gammage and associate vice president cultural affairs for ASU, said students who benefit from Act One become part of, not excluded from the equation for building the cultural life of our cities. ASU Gammage is one of the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world.

“Russ had a great career,” Jennings-Roggensack said, “and instead of resting on his laurels, he really said, ‘How do I help where I live be a better place—for everyone?’”

When Perlich sold Quadna in 2010, the long-time patron of the arts, planned for days filled with nothing but golf. That lasted only a few months. He served four months as interim executive director of Ballet Arizona before giving his full attention to Act One.

“I am flattered and honored beyond words,” said Perlich of his selection as the 2015 Piper Trust Encore Career Prize Awardee. “My father taught me—do what you need to do, so that someday, you can do what you want to do. This is what I want to do.”

Perlich’s selection was announced at a public celebration on November 5 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Guests were also treated to unique artistic performances by encore professional Dan Reed and his intergenerational Benevilla band; and Paul Rucker, a visual artist, composer, and musician who conveys complex social issues through performance art. Rucker captivated the audience with his performance on the rise, value, and impact of the encore movement.

Piper Trust established two prize offerings to further advance the Trust’s initiative to strengthen older adults and civic engagement. The Piper Trust Encore Career Prize for an Exceptional Individual recognizes an older adult/encore career role model, age 50+, who is leading a significant social purpose endeavor. The Piper Trust Encore Prizes for Exceptional Organizations: for nonprofits and public agencies that use the experience and talents of older adults in significant ways.

The inaugural prize for an encore career individual was awarded in 2013 to Mike McQuaid, board president of the Human Services Campus. The Piper Trust Encore Career Prize is awarded every other year. The next opportunity to apply will be in 2017.

An in-depth profile and an inspiring video about Russ Perlich are available at:

About Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust:
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust supports organizations that enrich health, well-being, and opportunity for the people of Maricopa County, Arizona. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education, and religious organizations. Piper Trust social media: @PiperTrust; Facebook; join the encore movement dialogue #pipertrustencore. View Piper Trust’s FY14 Annual Report:



Karen Leland, 480-556-7125 / [email protected]
Director, Communications and External Relations
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust