Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation: A Celebration of Reading


Photo Credit by David Shutts and Michelle Watson

The 23rd annual “A Celebration of Reading” was held at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, April 20, 2017. The splendid evening, hosted by former first lady Barbara Bush and Maria and Neil Bush, raised over $2.2 million to benefit the local Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation as well as the national Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.


Close to 1,800 guests gathered in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts with this year’s New York Times’ bestselling authors President George W. Bush, David Brooks, Sue Grafton, and Bill Browder to celebrate the importance of reading. The evening consisted of a reception and a dinner.


The reception opened with a video welcome from Barbara Bush, in which she thanked donors for their support. Following the video, Maria Bush introduced the former first lady who entered the theater to a standing ovation. Maria and Neil Bush then thanked Phillips 66 for serving as the Title Sponsor for the third year in a row. They also recognized the Quanex Foundation for serving as the event’s first Presenting Sponsor. The couple also thanked Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation president, Dr. Julie Baker Finck, for the work she and her team perform daily positively impacting lives through the power of literacy.  


An uplifting video, describing the former first lady’s impact on Houston’s literacy cause, followed. It highlighted the work of the foundation’s Young Professionals Group and Ladies for Literacy Guild, as well as other organizations and individuals who have embraced literacy to create their own legacy.  

Guests were then treated to stories told from the stage by this year’s featured authors. Westfield Senior High School concluded the program with a performance of “Brand New Day” from The Wiz.


Guests who stayed for dinner enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled chicken breast with mango chutney, cold beef tenderloin, a wedge salad, haricots verts, seasoned roasted potatoes, and bite-sized desserts, catered by Jackson & Company. To end the fabulous evening, guests departed with a gift bag featuring this quote from Barbara Bush: “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless.” Inside were two books from the featured authors.


Guests: President George W. Bush, David Brooks, Sue Grafton, Bill Browder, Neil and Maria Bush, Lauren Bush Lauren, Marshall Bush Rossi, Lizzie Andrews, Gail and Greg Garland, Iris and Bill Griffiths, Don and Lori Wallett, Cal and Hannah McNair, Trish and Rock Morille, The Honorable and Mrs. George W. Strake, Jr., Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Betty Hrncir, Diane Lokey Farb, Alice and Keith Mosing, and Ginger Blanton.


Prior to the evening’s festivities, a private authors’ luncheon was held at the stately residence of Terri and John Havens as a kickoff to “A Celebration of Reading.” Surrounded by the expansive grounds, guests enjoyed a refreshing lunch of butter lettuce salad and pan-roasted red fish perfectly finished with a lemon tart and fresh raspberries courtesy of Jackson & Company.


Neil Bush, co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, opened the luncheon by expressing his gratitude to attendees for their continuous support of the foundation and its mission to improve lives through the power of literacy. During his heartfelt speech, he also conveyed his mother’s belief that “If a person cannot read or write, they cannot possibly reach their fullest potential.” Neil then asked each author a question related to their personal life and work.  


Following lunch, John Havens gave guests a personal tour of the grounds, including the 200-year-old chapel imported from Château des Bruneau in Firminy, France.


Guests: Bill Browder, David Brooks, Sue Grafton, Gail and Greg Garland, Monica and Larry Ziemba, Sonya Reed, Enrique San Miguel, Iris and Bill Griffiths, Jennifer and Brent Korb, Lori and Don Wallett, Janet and John Carrig, Steve Humphreys, Josh Browder, Julie Baker Finck, Jean Becker, and Lizzie Andrews. 


About Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, co-chaired by Neil and Maria Bush, was established as a charitable organization focused on improving the quality of life for Houston residents through the power of literacy. The Foundation advocates for literacy as a fundamental right of everyone and a foundational skill toward success in life. It is founded on the belief held by former first lady Barbara Bush that “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless.” In 2013, Neil and Maria Bush created the Houston-based foundation separate from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in response to the need to deepen the awareness of, and intensify services and support for, the nation’s fourth largest and most diverse city – Houston. 


For more information, please visit: or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @bushhoustonlit.

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CKW LUXE is a philanthropic Houston magazine whose initials are not only those of the publisher, but also stand for Caring, Kindness, and Wisdom, qualities the magazine believes in and emulates in its content.