Ellen Diehl announces retirement

Ellen Diehl and Michael Egel after receiving National Register of Historic Places plaque in 2019

After seven years at the helm of DMMO’s fundraising and philanthropic efforts, Ellen Diehl has announced that she will retire on January 31, 2021.

Diehl has been an invaluable member of Des Moines Metro Opera since joining the staff in 2014, serving as Director of Advancement and Operations from 2014 to 2019 and Anniversary Projects Director from 2019 to 2021. Under her leadership, the organization grew contributions to its annual fund by 55% and successfully completed a $3.5 million capital campaign for the renovation and expansion of DMMO’s administrative headquarters – the Lauridsen Opera Center. Diehl has spent the last 18 months of her tenure at DMMO spearheading special projects associated with the company’s upcoming 50th Anniversary. Details of that celebration are to be announced during the organization’s 2021 Summer Festival.

“Over the last seven years, our DMMO family has come to know and appreciate the work, kindness and thoughtful professionalism of Ellen Diehl,” said Michael Egel, General & Artistic Director. “Personally, I’ve come to rely on a friend and colleague, whose tremendous grace and genuine care for all people have been a constant source of inspiration. During the most recent 18 months, her work on our upcoming 50th anniversary campaign has been remarkable, and I look forward to sharing more news later in the year. In the meantime, we extend our gratitude and best wishes to her in her next chapter. All of those who will experience our performances in subsequent generations will do so in large part thanks to her tireless work for Des Moines Metro Opera.”

Before Ellen officially retires, we wanted to ask her a few questions about her years at DMMO, her continued passion for the arts and her plans for the future.

What attracted you to working for a non-profit arts organization after previous fundraising work in the medical and business communities?

One of the things I have enjoyed most in my career journey is the opportunity to work with various non-profits.  Part of what I find amazing is their deep commitment to their missions, whether it be fundraising for a social service need or for some artistic endeavor.  Their work helps develop the very fabric of our communities and is proven to help individuals find value and passion in their lives. My husband and I have a great love for music, all kinds, singing throughout various churches and choirs.  I was a speech and drama teacher in my earlier years and loved being a part of the “creation” of a production. While I was not on the “front line” of our season performances, I have felt a true part of them as the key fundraiser to the organization. To be a part of this Company has been a meaningful experience, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

What has surprised you most about working at DMMO?

I have been amazed at the ongoing commitment our patrons have to DMMO and how they willingly step up when needed. Long-standing patrons welcome new friends with open arms to our organization and there is truly a desire to take opera to all the people from all walks of life. DMMO’s leadership boards and staff are exemplary and deserve great accolades with the milestones we have achieved.

Diehl (fourth from left) and the DMMO staff at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lauridsen Opera Center in 2018

What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of over your 7 years at the opera?

I would be remiss if I did not mention the renovation and expansion of the Lauridsen Opera Center and the recent work I have been involved with for our upcoming 50th Anniversary.  The icing on the cake is that these extraordinary endeavors have occurred, thankfully, without affecting our efforts to meet the annual fund, and amid a global pandemic.

What are a few of your favorite DMMO memories?

Most of all, I will remember the people I have been allowed to work with, both staff and patrons who have become dear friends and so very willing to be my encouragers.  They will be what I will miss the most.

I will always remember the opening of the Lauridsen Opera Center, as well as the excitement of opening nights. Our 2nd Stages Series productions have been amazing as well.

Do you have a favorite DMMO production?

It is very hard to identify one as they all tend to be extraordinary, however La Bohème is probably top of the list. I adored the beauty of A Little Night Music and who could ever forget Rusalka? Treasures, all of them!

Ellen and Jim Diehl (bottom center) with their children and grandchildren

What are you most looking forward to in your retirement?

Having more time to spend with my husband, children and grandchildren is, of course, eagerly anticipated.  I am looking forward to traveling more, and finally getting more time to read.  I have put many things “on the shelf” for years and am excited to take them down and finally experience them.   

How will your obvious passion for the arts (and particularly opera) continue going forward?

The arts have always been a part of my life, and I would like to think that will remain true.  I know we will continue to enjoy what DMMO brings to our community and look forward to having more time to enjoy other art organizations as well.

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