Houston Treasures for 2009
Photo by: Gittings
Sue and Lester Smith are championship ballroom dancers, philanthropists, athletes, and gracious hosts. Their foundation supports numerous non-profit organizations dedicated to medical science, education, arts and humanitarian causes.
Turning Lester’s personal battle with prostate cancer into a public campaign, in 2004 the Smiths founded “The Honor Your Father Campaign for Prostate Cancer Research” benefitting Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), where Lester had been treated. This yearlong fundraising effort impacted thousands of lives, becoming the largest single fundraising event in the history of BCM, raising $6.4 million including a match by The Smith Foundation. BCM’s urologic clinic has been named in the Smith’s honor and earned them the National Association for Fundraising Professionals Excellence in Fundraising Award.
Sue and Lester followed that success by spearheading a plan to recruit new members to BCM’s volunteer advocacy group, The Partnership for BCM, through a series of special events in their home resulting in a membership increase of over 300% in the past 3 years. The Smiths have agreed to chair the Baylor Gala for four consecutive years, through 2010.
After losing her sister to breast cancer, Sue Smith became a strong advocate for funding critical breast cancer research including The Smith Foundation’s $30 million challenge grant to BCM’s Breast Center and Human Genome Sequencing Center. Among the events their grant has underwritten, Noche Caliente, the annual Baylor Partnership Gala in January 2008 drew more than 1,000 guests and raised $11.4 million for breast cancer research at BCM.
With the same passion and vision that inspired their work at BCM, Sue and Lester have assisted in breaking records in attendance and membership at the Houston Museum of Natural Science by presenting the hugely popular “Lucy” and “Body Worlds 3” Exhibits. Avid rock and gem collectors, Sue and Lester’s interest in science education led to the creation of the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault, featuring the most extraordinary cut and polished jewels ever displayed in a single permanent exhibition.
Between chairing galas for the Ballet, Symphony, March of Dimes, Legacy Community Health Services and others, Lester and Sue serve on the boards of numerous non-profits, but they still find time to cut a rug now and again.