Event Date: April 20, 2023
Location: The home of Terri & John Havens-Luncheon; Hobby Center for the Performing Arts-Gala
Event: Luncheon and Gala
Beneficiary: Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation
No. of Attendees: 1,000
Money Raised: $1,800,000
Honorary Chairs: Neil and Maria Bush
Featured Authors: Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen, Tom Papa, Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr. and Isabel Wilkerson
Title Sponsor: Phillips 66
Photography: Daniel Ortiz, Gary Fountain and Jacob Power
A Celebration of Reading 2023: “Faith, Family & Friends”—Three Things Our Former First Lady Held Dear
The legacy of former First Lady Barbara Bush was once again showcased at this unique annual affair, which occurs with two separate events—a VIP luncheon at the French-inspired home of Terri & John Havens and a performance of readings by selected authors followed by a seated dinner in the lobby of Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
The Havens hosted Co-Founders Maria and Neil Bush, their family members, major donors and authors Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen, Tom Papa, Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr. and Isabel Wilkerson in their River Oaks abode earlier in the day, where a savory meal from City Kitchen was served. Neil Bush spoke warmly about his mother and how her light has shined on literacy programs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation for nearly three decades. “Mom believed that reading is a fundamental skill necessary for a person to reach his or her fullest potential in life,” said Neil Bush.
The evening was a stellar success as nearly 1,000 guests gathered at the aforementioned Hobby Center to see and hear the book authors read from their chosen works on stage in a setting transformed into a replica of the living room of President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush’s former residence. This 29th annual “A Celebration of Reading” raised an astonishing $1.8 million to further the organization’s mission, celebrating its tenth anniversary that evening. Each speaker was introduced by a Bush family member, which included Pace Andrews, Sarahbeth Bush, Ashley Walker Bush, Julian LeFevre and Pierce Bush.
The renowned St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Choir concluded the program with a stunning performance of “My Country Tis of Thee” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Guests then moved to the lobby, where a formal dinner by City Kitchen and H-E-B’s blooms of tulips and hydrangeas awaited them.
The event’s theme of “Faith, Family, and Friends” was set in place to honor the three things that late First Lady Barbara Bush held most dear in her life. Neil Bush’s heartfelt moment was when he spoke, “While Mom is only with us in spirit, our family remains deeply committed to the long-term sustainability of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and its programs.”
Socially present (not previously mentioned): Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck, Rose Cullen, Mark and Laurie Lashier, Lisa and Mark Jakel, Terri and John Havens, Joe and Cathy Cleary, Ryan and Lisa Lance, Kirk and Regina Johnson, Sig and Patricia Cornelius, Amy and John Chronis, Sidney Faust, Betty and John Hrncir, Joan and Culver Stedman, Lance and Jennifer Gilliam, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Katherine McGovern, Anne Neeson and Craig Janies, Alice and Keith Mosing, Regina Rogers, Jeff and Heather Firestone, Ginger Blanton, Renee Renfroe, Deb and Monte Stavis, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Jim and Beverly Postl and many others