Longtime Beverly Hills resident and Founding President of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Paul Selwyn, passed away on Feb. 16 at age 88. After Selwyn and his family emigrated from Antwerp, Belgium in 1938, he went on to attend El Rodeo School and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1951. A community leader, Selwyn remained a fixture in the Beverly Hills community throughout his life, serving on the city’s Architectural Commission for four years and the Planning Commission for eight years. Among his many accolades, he also co-founded the original Los Angeles Children’s Museum, where he served as President and Chairman.
“I lost a dear friend and Los Angeles lost a visionary leader with the passing of Paul Selwyn,” Wallis Annenberg told the Courier. “One of the proudest moments of my own philanthropic life, the opening of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, would simply never have happened without him. Paul understood, over a quarter of a century ago, that we could more than save the Beverly Hills Post Office — we could transform a precious piece of architectural history into a living, breathing monument to our creativity here and now. Paul’s passion, his tenacity, his infectious enthusiasm is what made me commit to The Wallis. I will never forget how he beamed as it sprang to life. And that is really the story of Paul’s own life: building an extraordinary business, sure, but giving back in every way he could, with every fiber of his being.”
In 1994, Selwyn began working on establishing the Beverly Hills Cultural Center Foundation (BHCCF), where he served as President. He, along with other city leaders, are credited for helping the city take possession of the historic Post Office adjacent to City Hall and repurposing the celebrated building as a cultural hub. The BHCCF later became The Wallis, where Selwyn served on the Board of Directors until 2014.
According to Rachel Fine, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of The Wallis, Selwyn left an indelible mark on the organization.
“Most don’t know that a two-decade history preceded The Wallis’ 2013 opening, during which time Paul and his co-founders never lost sight of the goal to create the single best multi-use performing arts space in Southern California,” Fine told the Courier. “From the outset, Paul recognized The Wallis’ enormous potential, never gave up, and enjoyed it thoroughly from the time it opened until he passed away. Even after he rotated off the board, he served enthusiastically as a Wallis Ambassador and member of our education committee, his pride and joy. He was an exuberant advocate on each of his frequent visits. We will truly and deeply miss him.”
In 1959, Selwyn married Joan Gordon and the couple raised their two children, Marc and Laura, in Beverly Hills.
“With our father’s passing, Beverly Hills lost one of its most devoted citizens,” Marc Selwyn told the Courier. “He instilled in us a sense of being part of a community and the importance of leaving it better than he found it. Watching his unwavering optimism and perseverance over 19 years as he worked to make The Wallis a reality was an inspiration.”
Paul is survived by his wife Joan, his two children, Marc Selwyn and Laura Selwyn Wyatt, his grandson Spenser Wyatt, his son-in-law Geof Wyatt, and Marc’s partner Bruce Bower.