Dede Wilsey Steps Down as Board President From de Young, Legion of Honor

Dede Wilsey with FAMSF Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell at the 2019 Bouquets to Art Gala. (Drew Altizer)

Effective today, Diane B. Wilsey’s long tenure at the helm of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) is over.

Since 1998, Wilsey (better known as Dede), has served as president of one of the FAMSF’s three boards of trustees, and chair of another. These groups oversee both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor.

In the same vote by the trustees, board member Jason Moment was elected to succeed Wilsey. In a quote given to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wilsey said, “I have been looking for someone younger, who was ready to take over. Jason is perfect.”

This is a very different tune than the one Wilsey struck in 2016, when rumors of her resignation swirled, and she stepped down as president and CEO of the museums. Now, Wilsey assumes the role of chair emerita.

As the driving force behind the de Young’s $206 million rebuilding campaign in 2005, donating $10 million of her own money, Wilsey was often the public face of the institution, especially while the museums weathered the instability of four different directors between the years of 2011 and 2018.

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Wilsey is one of San Francisco’s most loyal and generous philanthropists. She sits on the boards of the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet, and the San Francisco War Memorial; she is also a donor to KQED.

But her time at the FAMSF was marred by lawsuits, scandals, staff turmoil and financial deficits. In a particularly interesting detail from a 2016 New York Times story about the “defiant socialite,” a former curator expressed his displeasure that Wilsey had paid $1,000 apiece to have the names of her dogs posted on a donor wall.

Moment admitted to the Chronicle it will be difficult to fill Wilsey’s shoes: “None of us want her to step away. She is integral to the museum.”

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