Biography of Sally Hughes Church

Sally Hughes Church was born on August 18, 1931. As a child in Salinas, California, she attended Lincoln Elementary, Washington Middle, and Salinas High Schools. While a student at Salinas High, Sally taught swimming in her free time and carried her love for swimming, and for teaching, throughout her life.

Sally left Salinas to continue her Education at the University of California, Berkeley and was a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority. Through one of her sorority sisters, Barbara Cook, Sally was introduced to the world of theatre. Before graduating from Berkeley with a major in both History and Political Science, Sally had caught the theatre bug and was inspired to continue her education at San Francisco State, studying Drama.

Prior to commencing her graduate studies, Sally invested in a less formal education by touring the world and experiencing art and culture during her extensive travels to cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon, Calcutta, Benares, Delhi, Karachi, Cairo, Jerusalem, Beirut, Istanbul, and many more!

In 1958 Sally teamed up with Gale Peterson, whom she had worked with at San Francisco State, and Barbara Cook, to create a theatre where young people could receive training in all aspects of the theatre, including acting, singing and stage work. Sally worked to lovingly reconfigure a rustic barn into a 135 seat venue for musical theatre which came to be known as White Oaks Theatre in Carmel, California. The theatre opened with a musical revue called "Showcase I" on July 2, 1959.

Soon after the successful opening of the White Oaks Theatre, Sally learned that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis, a disease that would eventually leave her partially paralyzed. Undeterred by her declining health, Sally decided to take on a new challenge and began raising funds to build a larger theatre. She purchased 7.4 acres of land near the original White Oaks Theatre for a new theatre intended to be a "unique regional theatre laboratory." Sally hoped that this new theatre would help bridge the gap between educational and professional theatre for talented young people interested in making a career in theatre, especially musical theatre. Sally's determination was rewarded when the New White Oaks Theatre opened on July 3, 1965. Sally's dream of a new theatre helped to bring the dreams of countless aspiring artists within reach.

Sally's health deteriorated slowly until her death on March 28, 1995 at the age of 73. During that time, she never accepted defeat easily. An article published on the front page of a Hawaiian newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, on June 22, 1973 provides some insight into Sally's tenacity. According to the article, Sally took a vacation in Hawaii and, despite being partially paralyzed by multiple sclerosis; maintained her love of swimming. Sally could not get to the water alone, so she persuaded a few members of the local fire department to carry her out into the ocean so that she could swim!

Sally understood what it was like to have a dream just out of reach, but she also experienced the joy of achieving a dream through the kindness and generosity of strangers. By creating and funding the Sally Hughes Church Foundation, Sally was able to put other's dreams within their reach.

The grant making objectives of the foundation reflect Sally's life. Through her foundation, Sally continues to support the theatre, educate youth, promote self-reliance and good health, and strengthen the family unit. The foundation's grants benefit the City of Salinas, where Sally was raised, and surrounding Monterey County.