Professor Richards studied for his Ph.D in Canada and has worked all over the world but he was born in New Zealand, residing predominantly in Gisborne and completed his early tertiary education at Victoria University of Wellington. He has a keen interest in the arts, particularly in music, having studied piano for many years. From a family of musicians on his mother's side - his Grandfather, George Croft, was a well-known organ builder. He has a particular love of the piano and has often commissioned work including Arts Foundation Laureate's John Psathas and Gareth Farr.
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, premiered one such commission by Gareth Farr earlier this year at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington. The work, entitled Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was performed by soloist Tony Lee who was introduced to Farr at one of Professor Richards' Summer Concert series. The Summer Concert series is a regular event held in his Gisborne home to raise funds for the Gisborne International Music Competition.
In May 2014 Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne opened the Jack C Richards Decorative Art Gallery. The gallery shows pieces from Professor Richards own collection including Lalique glassware and rare Asian robes from his extensive textiles collection.
Among other initiatives Professor Richards jointly funds the Composer in Residence program at the New Zealand School of Music with Creative New Zealand, is a Patron of the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, and offers annual scholarships to students in the Toihoukura School of Contemporary Arts. In 2011 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by Victoria University, Wellington, recognising his contributions to English language teaching and the arts.
Award for Patronage donation recipients will be announced at the New Zealand Arts Awards November 3.