Esther Capin died Sunday after a short illness.

Courtesy of Capin family

Philanthropist and former Arizona Board of Regent Esther N. Capin died Sunday. She was 78.

She died after a short illness, and was lovingly surrounded by her family, said her son Jim Capin.

She served two terms as a regent from 1978 to 1994, said her son.

She also served on the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners, and was a founding member of the University of Arizona Health Center, serving on the board for 24 years, Jim Capin said.

He said his mother was born Esther Nathan in Chicago on Dec. 23, 1934, but was raised in Los Angeles.

She married businessman Richard L. Capin on Oct. 2, 1955. He came from a pioneer family that built a Nogales mercantile business into a chain of stores across the Southwest, said her son.

Richard L. Capin at one time was president of Capin Mercantile Corp. in Nogales, Jim Capin said.  

As a philanthropist,  among the causes Esther Capin supported were education, the Girl Scouts of America, the University of Arizona and the Jewish Federation for Southern Arizona, Jim Capin said.

She is survived by five children and 10 grandchildren.

Services are Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El at 225 N. Country Club Road.   

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or