Mondavi Center Mainstay Don Roth to Retire After 17 Seasons

Don Roth, posing, on Mondavi Center stage
Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center, discusses a Mondavi featured program on the UC Davis podcast, Backdrop. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • ‘Elevated UC Davis into a cultural hub,’ provost says
  • With eclectic taste and a willingness to break the mold
  • Committed to bringing in diverse artists and audiences
  • Integrated the center into campus’s academic fabric

Soon after the current season at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts wraps up, Don Roth will take his final bow as its executive director. He announced this week he will retire Aug. 31 after a 17-season run.

Now in its 20th anniversary season, the Mondavi Center enjoys an impeccable image and reputation, due in no small part to Roth’s vision and leadership. He arrived in 2006 with self-proclaimed eclectic taste, a commitment to welcoming more diverse artists and audiences, and a sincerely held desire to increase accessibility to the arts.

“Don’s passion for the performing arts has helped to elevate the Mondavi Center and UC Davis as a cultural hub in our region,” said Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan. “He understands the role that performing arts plays in building a sense of community and connecting us with one another in deeply meaningful ways. What he has accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary, and he will be greatly missed.”

The university will launch a national search for his successor.

Academics and the arts

Year after year, under Roth’s leadership, the center has played a vital role in the university’s academic mission, while also attracting performers, who, in the past, rarely or never visited the area. The center also welcomed new, more diverse audiences. And it stayed financially afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, creatively and successfully delivering virtual performances.

“I’ve had the privilege to be in an environment — both the Mondavi Center and our university — where my core values mesh with the mission and vision, and the ongoing work we get to do,” Roth said. “This role has reflected my deepest values and identity, and it has been such an honor to be part of bringing the arts to our community.”

During Roth’s tenure, the Mondavi Center has welcomed a wide range of artists, including New Zealand opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Bonnie Raitt, Yo-Yo Ma, the late John Prine and Ballet Preljocaj.

Don Roth speaks at outdoor event.
Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center, introduces one of the stops on the 2013 Egghead Music Walk. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Roth has favored events that broke the mold, like Stewart Goodyear’s “Sonata-thon,” during which he played all 32 Beethoven Sonatas in one day; and the Egghead Music Walk” in which St. Louis Symphony musicians strolled to all of the campus’s Robert Arneson Egghead sculptures, playing specially commissioned works by UC Davis composers.

Transdisciplinary SHAPE

To broaden its collaboration with faculty, the Mondavi Center launched SHAPE — Science, Humanities and Arts: Process and Engagement — thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2019. The program, which Roth designed in partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the UC Davis Humanities Institute, led to the creation of 11 undergraduate seminars taught by arts, science, engineering and humanities faculty.

“I am very proud of this project and the close relationship it has created between the Mondavi Center and the artists we bring to campus, and the education work of our great UC Davis faculty,” Roth said. “By hosting transdisciplinary teams, we demonstrate the ways in which the arts and humanities connect to the sciences and mathematics. The arts remain powerful agents in creating meaning for individuals and society.”

For now, Roth is looking forward to the great lineup of artists who will close out the Mondavi Center’s 20th anniversary season. And he is hard at work with the Mondavi Center programming team putting the finishing touches on the 2023-24 season, and on enhancing the connections between members of the community and the performing arts.

Cindy Brown is executive communication specialist in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor.

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

  • Rob Tocalino, Mondavi Center,
  • Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

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