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Helen Shaffer

2020 Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker Award


Sunday, January 19, 2020

The St. Regis Houston

6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Helen Shaffer has helped to enrich the cultural life of Houston through her devotion to music and the arts and has improved the quality of life for many through her work with numerous philanthropic organizations. From her earliest years, Helen was surrounded by music. Born in culturally rich Cincinnati, Ohio, Helen’s parents instilled a passion for music in her as well as the responsibility to share her unique gifts and talents to benefit others. 


Helen received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She sang with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and, upon moving to Pittsburgh,  performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She has also sung with the Robert Shaw Chorus. Helen taught at the Hutchison School in Memphis and at the Lovett School in Atlanta.


Forty years ago, Helen and her husband, Jim, and their three daughters moved to Houston. Although her family was the center of her life, Helen’s zealous commitment to the arts ignited her passion for volunteerism, and she became involved with a variety of exemplary organizations, all of which are equally important to her.


Helen is a lifetime trustee of the Houston Symphony. In 1998, she became the president of the Houston Symphony League and is a past chair of the Ima Hogg Competition. Helen is also part of the Houston Symphony Society and currently serves on the governing board. A trustee of the Houston Grand Opera, Helen serves on the development committee, the legacy committee, and the patron committee. She is devoted to the Houston Ballet and is an ambassador for the organization. As a member of the advisory board of the Alley Theatre, Helen is part of the development committee. She is a Leading Lady with Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) and cochaired the organization’s 50th Anniversary Gala auction committee.


Helen is currently membership chair of the University of Houston Moores School of Music and has served as president of the Moores Society. The society’s primary responsibility is to raise scholarship funds and promote special projects through which students’ efforts are supported and sustained. Helen also has served on the Dean’s Board for the Humanities at the University of Houston.


As well, Helen is a member of the University of Houston Board of Visitors (BOV), a leadership group that serves to advance the university throughout the region. It’s members represent a broad array of expertise, interests, and connections. Currently, Helen is vice-chair of BOV’s Third Ward Schools Task Force, which fosters the positive impact of education and economic activity in Houston’s Third Ward community and is focused on raising student performance through student/teacher engagement, technology resources, and health and family resources.


Helen has also served  on the boards of the Homes of St. Mark and Girls Inc., was a charter member of the Salvation Army of Houston Women’s Auxiliary executive board,  and has served as secretary on the Houston Public Media board. She is a member of the Texas Association for Symphony Orchestras and was president in 2007. She joined the board of the Association of American Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers in 2001 and is now a past president. In 2006, Helen graciously accepted an invitation to join the League of American Orchestras’ Volunteer Council. She is also a member of the League of American Orchestras and currently serves as secretary of the board.


With her husband, Helen has supported the work of the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the National Kidney Foundation. The couple also have served as the honorary chairs for the Houston Children’s Chorus.


Helen’s service to her community has not gone unnoticed. She has been the proud recipient of many honors, including the Houston Symphony League’s prestigious Ellen Kelley Award in 2001; the Houston Symphony Society Gold Baton Award in 2008; and being named one of ABC13’s Women of Distinction, 2010. She and Jim were also delighted to be named Sweethearts for the Arts.


Since adopting Houston as her hometown, Helen Shaffer has committed herself to many of its cultural and philanthropic institutions with enthusiasm and professionalism.


It is for all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, that Helen Shaffer has been named a Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker for 2020. 

 Presenting Sponsor

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