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Gladys Hanna

Gladys Hanna ’47 with the William Keith oil painting she and her family donated to Pacific for the John Muir collection.

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Gladys Hanna, alumna and granddaughter-in-law of John Muir, passed away June 13

Jul 1, 2020

Gladys (Stoeven) Hanna ’47, alumna and granddaughter-in-law of renowned naturalist John Muir, died June 13. She was 94. 

Hanna was born Gladys Stoeven on Feb. 28, 1926, in Stockton. At a young age, she learned to play the piano and ballet, and it was her love for music that brought her to study at University of Pacific—then known as College of the Pacific—where she was a music major and earned her teaching credential. 

At 22, Hanna met her late husband Ross Hanna, grandson of Muir, at Pacific. Ross, who led the university’s jazz band, graduated from the School of Business in 1949.

The couple married in 1948 and had three children. Gladys had a career as a school teacher in San Mateo and Stockton before the family relocated to Dixon, where they became heavily involved in the community. They were members of Dixon Community Church and later Dixon United Methodist Church. She was a longtime member of Dixon Women’s Improvement Club, the Dixon Historical Society and Red Cross, but was best known in town for her and her husband’s involvement in the longtime jazz group Phirehouse Philharmonic, which played shows locally and internationally for decades.

Despite moving away from Stockton, Hanna remained fond of Pacific, often describing the campus as a peaceful, beautiful place, and enjoyed returning to her alma mater to visit. 

“Pacific holds a dear place in my heart,” Hanna said in 2016. “I loved my experience there.”

In November 2016, she and her husband (posthumously) gifted to Pacific an oil painting by renowned Western landscape painter William Keith. The 129-year-old painting of Vernal Fall, which hung in Muir’s Martinez home during his lifetime, is a permanent part of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections at Pacific, available for students and the public to study and view in perpetuity. Painted in 1891, it depicts the waterfall along the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park.

“I would hope that through the eyes of the painter, those who view the painting will feel the power of the rushing water, smell the scent of the air and trees, but also feel the peace of nature and want to experience it on their own,” Hanna said at the time. 

Mike Wurtz, head of University of the Pacific Libraries Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, always looked forward to his chats with Gladys Hanna. 

“Her passion for Muir and Pacific was deep,” he said. “She and Ross loaned the William Keith painting to Pacific in the 1980s. Shortly after Ross passed in June 2014, Gladys wanted to show her appreciation for the work that Pacific had done over the years for the Muir archives by donating the painting. Gladys was a supporter of the John Muir legacy at Pacific.”

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