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Photography: Jacob Powers (luncheon), Gary Fountain (evening program),Daniel Ortiz (evening program)


The Celebration

The evening program of the 29th Annual A Celebration of Reading was hosted by Maria and Neil Bush, cochairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation), on April 20, 2023 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s theme: Faith, Family, and Friends, honored the three things Foundation founder Barbara Bush believed in above all others. The event also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation marking the ten years of difference it has made to the cause of literacy in the city. The author’s luncheon was held the same afternoon at the elegant home of Terri and John Havens who hosted the private affair.


The Story

As the nearly 1000 guests at the evening program entered the venue’s main theater, they found its stage had been transformed into an exact replica of the living room of George H. W. and Barbara Bush’s former residence. The familiar setting created a mood of intimacy and nostalgia that made the attendees feel right at home.

Maria and Neil Bush welcomed participants and thanked them for generously supporting the cause of literacy. Neil Bush also noted how grateful his mother would have been to them for advancing her legacy. 


The exceptional lineup of bestselling authors included  Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen, Tom Papa, Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., and Isabel Wilkerson. They were introduced by Bush family members Pace Andrews, Sarahbeth Bush, Ashley Walker Bush, Julian LeFevre, and Pierce Bush.


During the author’s luncheon, guests, members of the Bush family, and featured authors enjoyed a sumptuous three-course meal catered by City Kitchen Catering. The repast  was served on the magnificent grounds of the Havens’ European-styled estate. John Havens told guests that he and Terri host the event at the request of the late Barbara Bush and will continue to do so in her honor and to support the work of the Foundation.  Neil Bush thanked the Havens for their hospitality and commented on his appreciation of everyone’s support of his mother’s vision. 


The Moments

The evening program’s celebrated authors each took the stage to talk about their inspirations and life experiences and to share their sometimes humorous advice. Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr. gave a touching tribute to the late George H. W. and Barbara Bush by sharing his poignant memories of being with each of them during their final moments. The renowned St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Choir concluded the program with a rousing performance of My Country Tis of Thee and Battle Hymn of the Republic, during which participants viewed special imagery and tribute messages celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Foundation.


Following the program, guests sat down to a delicious three-course meal prepared by City Kitchen Catering and refreshments courtesy of Wicked Whisk at tables expertly decorated by H-E-B with beautifully blooming  hydrangeas and tulips. Guests were also able to participate in a raffle sponsored by Tenenbaum Jewelers for a chance to win a $20,000 gift card. The proceeds of the raffle will go toward supporting the University of Houston’s Cougar Tutor Program, a collaborative effort among the University of Houston, the Foundation, and elementary schools in Greater Third Ward.


The successful event raised over $1.8 million to help support the Foundation’s cause. 

Phillips 66 served as the title sponsor.


The Foundation’s media partner, KPRC 2, will broadcast a one-hour commercial-free version of the program, which will include new interviews and stories of impact on Sunday, May 7,  2023 at 8 p.m. CST.


Evening Guests: Neil and Maria Bush; Pierce and Sarabeth Bush; Ashley Walker Bush and Julian LeFevre; Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck; Danny Ward and Nancy Ames; Nelson DeMille; Isabel Wilkerson; Tess Gerritsen; Tom Papa; Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr. and Laura Levenson; Shayna Andrews; Susan Bruch; Martha and Tom Mannes; Lee Bobbitt LeBlond; Pace Andrews; Bruce and Sandra Chinn; Joe and Cathy Cleary; Ryan and Lisa Lance; Kirk and Regina Johnson; Sig and Patricia Cornelius; Scott and Kathy Schroeder; Rose Cullen; Cat Tramuto Tobin and Sean Tobin; Scott and Kelly John; Amy and John Chronis; Patricia and Lon Edwards; Greg and Terri Ebel; Cynthia Hansen and Joe Concini; Ramon and Karen Manning; Bill and Mickie Strait; Randall and Susanne Evans; Dennis and Mary Johnston; Sidney Faust; Betty and John Hrncir; Joan and Culver Stedman; Ray and Lisa Garcia; Lance and Jennifer Gilliam; Terri and John Havens; Andy and Danielle Slentz; Lisa and Mark Jakel; Lily and Laura Frishman; Kathy and Marty Goossen; Bryan and Susan Vincent; Will and Ann Drost; Rebecca and Brian Duncan; Scott Ulrich and Ernest Trevino; Amy and Gentry Lee; Carolyn and David Light; Mike and Julie Henderson; Katherine McGovern; Doreen and Dan Stroller; Ebony and Rodney Dickens; Anne Neeson and Craig Janies; Walter Montaigne; Marsha Montemayor; Alice and Keith Mosing; Marvin and Emma Odum; Yanni Charalambous; Gail and Greg Garland; Laurie and Mark Lashier; Laura and Tim Roberts; Zhanna and Vitaly Golodryga; Shana and Brian Mandell; Regina Rogers; Jeff and Heather Firestone; Ginger Blanton; Renee Renfroe; Deb and Monte Stavis; Stephanie and Frank Tsuru; and Jim and Beverly Postl.


Luncheon Guests : Neil and Maria Bush; Pierce and Sarabeth Bush; Ashley Walker Bush and Julian LeFevre; Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck; Nelson DeMille; Isabel Wilkerson; Tess Gerritsen; Tom Papa; Rev. Russell J. Levenson, Jr. and Laura Levenson; Greg and Gail Garland; Cynthia Hansen and Joe Concini; Lee Bobbitt LeBlond; Mark and Laurie Lashier; Brian and Rebecca Duncan; Tim and Laura Roberts; Kathy and Janice Sauvé; Lisa and Mark Jakel; Zhanna Golodryga; Kevin Mitchell; and Terri and John Havens.


About the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a charitable organization formed by Neil and Maria Bush to carry forth First Lady Barbara Bush’s legacy in the literacy cause and to focus deeply on breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in the Bush family’s hometown. Founded on Mrs. Bush’s belief, “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” the Barbara Bush Foundation’s mission is to improve lives through the power of literacy: the ability to read, write, speak clearly, and think critically. 


For more information about the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, please visit or follow them on Facebook at @bushhoustonlit on Twitter @bushhoustonlit and on Instagram @bushhoustonlit

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