On Tuesday, March 8, 1910, three noteworthy events occurred:
- The first International Women’s Day was observed throughout the world.
- Madame Raymonde de Laroche of France was awarded pilot’s license No. 36 by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, becoming the first woman authorized to fly an airplane.
- In the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Claire Wemlinger was born to merchant-tailor Noel Wemlinger, an immigrant from Paris, and his Irish wife, Betty.
The significance of the first two events was recognized right away, but it would take more than two decades for people to realize the importance of the third – two decades plus two years, to be exact. That’s when Claire Wemlinger – transformed into Claire Trevor – made her Broadway acting debut in “Whistling in the Dark” and embarked on a six-decade career that earned her awards and international renown.
On Tuesday, March 8, 2011 – 101 years after her birth – Claire Wemlinger Trevor was acknowledged again, this time with a star at UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts. Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress Eva Marie Saint assisted with the tribute.
Trevor, who also garnered an Oscar and an Emmy, did stage, film, radio and TV work. In addition, she was a longtime Orange County resident, devoted wife and mother, painter, philanthropist and advocate of the arts and arts education.
After retiring from professional acting in 1987, Trevor became involved with UCI’s School of the Arts and its students, who cherished her attendance at performances and valued the wisdom and professional advice she shared so generously with them.
Trevor visited the school frequently, sitting in on rehearsals and interacting with student actors and faculty. She liked getting to know the drama students, seeing their work and helping them achieve their goals, according to those who knew her at that time. She often spoke of the important role the arts played in her life and believed that full use of one’s imagination contributes to personal happiness.
Her stepson Donald Bren is known throughout Orange County for his own philanthropy and business acumen as head of the Irvine Company. After Trevor’s death in 2000, Bren and his brother, Peter, acknowledged her career and passion for the arts with a $10 million gift to UCI’s arts school, renamed the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.
“One of the many qualities that made Claire special was her strong support of young people interested in exploring the arts,” Bren commented at the time. “She was also very impressed with the quality of the students and faculty here, so the gift is an appropriate reflection of both her own artistic legacy and her commitment to the artists and performers of the future.”
The installation of a star in the actress’s honor – the first in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ very own Walk of Fame – reminds the community and generations to come of her devotion and contributions.
“Just as her commitment to our students never wavered, neither have our gratitude and admiration of her,” says Joseph S. Lewis III, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. “This star will serve as a permanent symbol of the high regard in which we hold Ms. Trevor and the Bren family for their generosity and support.”