Holocaust Museum Houston Honors Two Houstonians as Guardians of the Human Spirit

HOUSTON, TX (Nov. 8, 2007) – More than 830 people were on hand last month to honor two Houstonians whose visionary insight, personal determination and leadership have made our community and our world better places in which to live.

Philanthropists Lester and Sue Smith were honored Nov. 8 as Holocaust Museum Houston presented its annual "Guardian of the Human Spirit" luncheon at the Westin Galleria Houston hotel, 5060 W. Alabama.

The event raised a luncheon record of more than $600,000 to help continue the Museum's worldwide educational programming and its policy of free admission to the general public so that there is never a financial barrier to anyone interested in learning the lessons of the Holocaust.

The Museum established the Guardian of the Human Spirit award in 1997 as a platform for acknowledging dedicated Houstonians who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.

Among those in attendance for the award presentation were Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; Houston City Controller Annise Parker; Houston City Council members Peter Brown, Ada Edwards, Pam Holm, Sue Lovell and Melissa Noriega; the Hon. Asher Yarden, Consul General of Israel; the Hon. Cristiano Maggipinto, Consul General of Italy; the Hon. Tsutomu Osawa, Consul General of Japan; the Hon. Rainer Münzel, Consul General of Germany; and the Hon. Geert Visser, Honorary Consul of the Netherlands.

Others at the gathering included Chris and Walter Kase, who will chair the 2008 Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award Dinner; Frann Lichtenstein; Eileen Gordon; Barbara and Charles Hurwitz; Bill King; Becca Cason Thrash; Fredell and Bobby Deutser; Kenny Friedman; Regina Rogers; and Bobbie and Stanley Weinstein.

A highlight of the event was a moving presentation by Houston Holocaust survivor Helen Colin, who thanked the Smiths for their role in helping the Museum teach future generations of the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

"Through their actions, Lester and Sue have made the impossible possible for many of Houston’s leading non-profit institutions, but more importantly, they have touched the lives of thousands of ordinary citizens in a way that has inspired and called others to action," Museum Chair Walter Hecht said during his remarks.

Hecht pointed to the Museum’s existing Holocaust railcar exhibit and its most recent acquisition – that of a Danish rescue boat of the type used to save more than 7,200 Jews from almost certain execution during World War II – as classic examples of the Smiths’ commitment to helping the Museum impart its message to thousands of students worldwide.

The Smith Foundation also underwrites several other programs, including The Lester and Sue Smith Distinguished Lecture Series, a series of free public lectures. The foundation also has been an avid supporter and underwriter of previous Guardian of the Human Spirit programs as well as the Museum’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award dinner.

The Smiths’ support of numerous organizations in Houston’s non-profit community and their zest for life have never dwindled over the years, despite their own personal challenges.

Other benefactors of their support have included Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Numerous Houston organizations have honored Sue and Lester for their immense philanthropic spirit including the Assistance League, BCM, Houston Children’s Charity, and The Heart Association. In 2006, Sue was honored for her fabulous style and community activism when she was named to the Houston Chronicle’s “Best Dressed” list.

Lester is a trustee of Baylor College of Medicine, and a member of the Board of Directors of Holocaust Museum Houston, Board of Visitors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Board of Directors of the National Prostate Cancer Foundation. He is a trustee of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and will serve as chairman of the board in 2008.

Previous recipients of the award have included Sandra Weiner and Martin Fein; Naomi Warren and Fred Zeidman; Joan and Stanford Alexander; Ed Wulfe; the H-E-B grocery chain; Jack Blanton; The Houston Chronicle; the Rev. William A. Lawson; Ron Stone; Julie and Ben Rogers; Linda P. Lay; and Siegi Izakson. 

This year’s luncheon was chaired by Ambassador Arthur Schechter and wife Joyce. Zeidman, a member of the Houston Museum’s Board of Directors, served as finance chairman.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the six million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004.

For more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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