CURRENT Summer 2019

Margaret Alkek Williams is a Houston treasure with two enduring passions — philanthropy and the performing arts. And, for the betterment of our community, she has dedicated her life to supporting both, enthusiastically and at the highest level.
 
Williams is the chairman of the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation, founded in 1995 after the death of her father to carry on the family’s charitable mission. Tirelessly, and with unmatched elegance, grace and kindness, Williams endeavors to provide support for charitable, religious, medical, cultural and educational organizations and programs here in Houston and beyond.
 
In 2016, Williams and her family celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Foundation and its $200 million in giving. That total included over $100 million to Baylor College of Medicine.
 
“My parents instilled in me that privilege comes with responsibility. I see how the careful choices they made created a legacy that both continues to give back to the community and also honors their lives, values and hopes for Houston,” said Williams.
 
Promoting the performing arts, for example, has long been a tradition of the Alkek family, and Williams’ affection for the arts has been a lifelong journey. 
 
When asked about this, Williams said, “By the time I was four years old, I was taking piano and singing lessons and performing in plays. I also started ballet lessons in the first grade.”
 
And, her first memory of attending a live performance?
 
“My first experience took place on a family trip to New York City, when I was in junior high school. My parents took me to see Carousel.” 
 
Later on, while in college, Williams performed in that same musical, playing the part of Julie Jordan.
 
“I have always loved singing and performing, and I continued doing both all the way through college,” she added. 
 
Williams studied acting at Stanford University and, later, earned a degree in music from The University of Texas. 
 
Afterwards, she  performed briefly with the Gilbert and  Sullivan Society of Philadelphia and, in 1960, she joined the Houston Grand Opera Chorus. ​
 
Williams said, “My first opera performance with HGO was in Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. The chorus plays a major role in this opera, so I was excited to be a part of it. I also sang with the HGO chorus in Romeo and Juliet and Samson et Dalila. Turandot remains one of my  favorite operas, and it includes the beautiful and emotional ‘Nessun Dorma’ aria.”
 
Williams’ deep affection for the performing arts is well-known and appreciated in our community. Her influence and impact across Houston’s cultural community is legendary. Grants given have resulted in the creation of new buildings, endowments, productions and programs. 
 
Williams’ love of the performing arts is highlighted by several important gifts: to the Center for Performing Arts Medicine (CPAM) at Houston Methodist Hospital, Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) and the Houston Ballet. 
 
In 2016, her generous gift funded the Margaret Alkek Williams CPAM Endowment for Arts Integration at Houston Methodist Hospital. The endowment will allow the center to continue in perpetuity the 100-plus live performances for Houston Methodist patients and guests throughout the year.
 
This fall, TUTS intends to break ground on the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education. At the start of the capital campaign in 2017, Williams pledged a $4 million lead gift to help build the 20,000-square-foot, three-story structure. The Margaret Alkek Williams Center will be constructed adjacent to the existing building and will feature a 140-seat black box studio, provide classrooms for voice, dance and acting, and triple the amount of rehearsal space currently available to performers.
 
“I look forward for the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education to be the heart of TUTS’ artistic and education vision,” said Williams. “It will be a space for our Houston community to come together to learn, experience and share a love for musical theatre.”
 
In 2017, Williams endowed Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance, a one-night-only gala event that showcases excerpts of work and highlights all of  the company dancers.  Williams endowed the performance in perpetuity, officially naming it the Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance.
 
“Every year, the very best of Houston Ballet has been on display at the Jubilee of Dance. I’m so proud of our beautiful, talented dancers and the diverse repertoire they are able to perform,” said Williams. “It’s important that our ballet company continues to have the opportunity to showcase its very best work for years to come.”  
 
Williams continued, “The Jubilee of Dance is the one night a year that every Houston  Ballet dancer takes the stage in repertoire meant to challenge and inspire the very best of each of them. I’m delighted to ensure this tradition continues for years to come.”
 
Jim Nelson, executive director of the Houston Ballet, said, “Margaret has been a generous friend of the arts for decades. She joined the Houston Ballet Board of Trustees in 1989 and began serving on the executive committee in 2003. Her extraordinary generosity has paved the way for the golden age we experience now at Houston Ballet. 
 
“Houston Ballet is honored and humbled to have the longtime patronage of Margaret. Her deep commitment to Houston Ballet is just one reflection of the transformational leadership she has provided to Houston’s arts as she continues to carry the torch of her family’s legacy of giving.” 
 
Additional gifts to Houston’s performing arts community, all directed by Williams, made possible the creation of the Margaret Alkek Williams Terrace Level at the Alley Theatre; Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Lab at the Houston Ballet; the endowment for the Margaret Alkek Williams Executive Director/ CEO Chair, held by John Mangum, at the Houston Symphony; and the endowment for the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, held by Patrick Summers, artistic and music director at the Houston Grand Opera. 
 
Summers said, “Margaret is an angel. Her loyalty to and longevity with HGO has made so much of our success possible that it would be impossible to properly thank her. She has made our city immeasurably better, and she’s done it with complete class, integrity, love and unending kindness.” 
 
Williams, Houston’s most beloved philanthropist, has been honored for her generosity many times, over the span of many years, and deservingly so!  
 
​In 2013, UNICEF USA recognized her extraordinary dedication to the health and well-being of children in Houston and around the world. She was the first  person in the U.S. to receive the Audrey  Hepburn® Society Philanthropist of the Year Award in recognition of her support of the UNICEF and Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Pediatric AIDS Initiative.
 
Also, in 2013, the Margaret Alkek Williams Humanitarian Award was established to recognize philanthropic leaders at the annual UNICEF USA Houston  Gala. Past recipients include Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Robert and Janice McNair, Rose and Harry Cullen, and Susan and Fayez Sarofim.
 
​In 2017, the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Houston Chapter honored Williams with the prestigious Maurice Hirsch Award for Philanthropy. This award is given to an individual or family with a proven record of exceptional generosity. 
 
Williams was humbled to follow in the footsteps of the past recipients of the award, including her father, Albert B. Alkek, in 1990 and her mother, Margaret M. Alkek, in 2000. 
 
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey once said, “While Houston is fortunate to have an impressive number of truly generous citizens, there are only a few throughout Houston who have given with such commitment and in amounts capable of changing the skyline, the level of healthcare, the magnitude of the arts and the quality of life for nearly every Houstonian. Such is the level of commitment of Margaret Alkek Williams.”
 
Beverly Denver is the founder, editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

SPECIAL REPORTS

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

Workplace Problem No One Talks About

Imagine how you’d feel if you didn’t get a promotion because of your religion or skin color. The only good news would be that you could probably sue your employer...

Read more

Kinder Houston Area Survey reveals lingering concerns in wake of Hurricane Harvey

The 38th Annual Kinder Houston Area Survey was released May 13 at the popular Kinder Institute luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston.   Stephen Klineberg, the founding director of Rice’s...

Read more

8 Handshakes that Hurt Your Influence

Have you ever wondered what your handshake says about you? Your handshake is like your business card. It conveys your confidence, credibility and influence without sharing a single word. Studies...

Read more

8 Handshakes that Hurt Your Influence

Have you ever wondered what your handshake says about you? Your handshake is like your business card. It conveys your confidence, credibility and influence without sharing a single word. Studies...

Read more

Getting Around H-town: Car free and Carefree

From traffic jams to costly parking spots, driving in Houston can often spoil fun outings and weekend plans. In a city that ranks as the sixth most stressful place in...

Read more

10 Leadership Traits that Work in Motherhood

Today, my best friend’s daughter passed her driver’s license test and within minutes I got a text from my BFF saying, “I stood in the parking lot at the DMV...

Read more

Taryn Sims' career highlighted by opportunities to learn

Taryn Sims has been in commercial real estate at Wulfe & Co. for 21 years, and still, she finds she’s constantly learning. “There’s never a day I don’t come across something...

Read more

Betty Bezemer believes in celebrating life each day!

Find the celebration of life in each day! That’s the motto of Betty Bezemer, a top real estate agent at Keller Williams Memorial. She has been working there since 1992...

Read more

Bayou Land Conservancy renews accreditation

Since 1996, Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC), has been saving open spaces for the Houston region. Now, BLC has renewed its land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part...

Read more

Tenacity of persistent women led way for women leaders of today

Thanks to the dogged tenacity of generations of persistent women, the future is bright for business women in the 21st century; generations of women who shaped my journey as an...

Read more

Mary Benton newly appointed press secretary

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recently appointed Mary Benton as his press secretary. The appointment came just two months after Benton stepped into the job on an interim basis. “To no one’s...

Read more

Doerr Institute redefining how leaders are trained

Rice University is using a $50 million gift from John and Ann Doerr to redefine how leaders are made. The Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders opened last July...

Read more

Eileen Morris: 'Making art is like making gumbo'

  The Ensemble Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and Eileen Morris, its artistic director, has been involved since 1982 –– almost from the beginning.    After earning a degree in theater...

Read more

Buffalo Bayou Cistern now open for public viewing

  Buffalo Bayou Partnership debuted the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, a renovated architectural relic, on May 13. The Cistern, reminiscent of the ancient Roman cisterns under Istanbul, is a cavernous space...

Read more

Brent Clanton: Vacationing this Summer

The summer doldrums have set in early this year. Houston’s vast matrix of concrete simmers and shimmers in the harsh sunlight, and it’s only 10 in the morning. The hourly...

Read more

Sarah Gish and Labyrinths

The idea of walking around and around in circles may seem like an ideal way to get dizzy, but veteran labyrinth walker Sarah Gish knows she can always find serenity...

Read more

Take the panic out of packing!

  Do you struggle with a large suitcase on a trip but only wear half of what you’ve packed? Or, are you at the other extreme, throwing things into a suitcase...

Read more

Legacy of Booker T. Washington

  The most terrorizing and oppressive form of slavery in recorded history was abolished on December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. For nearly four million Blacks, the...

Read more

Professional Mediator Talks about Art of Arbitration

Wondering how to peacefully resolve a family dispute without taking siblings to court? Need help deciding how to handle the affairs of an elderly relative? Looking for a way to...

Read more

Coloring Books for Adults

There is something  delightfully nostalgic about opening up a coloring book and willing yourself to stay inside the lines as you fill in blank spaces with bright color, just as...

Read more

Optimize Your Brand Thru Impression Management

While we never have a second chance to make a first impression, there may be some solutions for turning things around if we’re dissatisfied with the way others perceive us...

Read more

Brent Clanton: Rodeo Daze

My heroes haven’t always been cowboys. Contrary to Willie Nelson’s sentimentalities, my favorite cowboy flew a twin-engine Cessna T-50. Schuyler “Sky”  King named his aerial steed “Songbird” and captured crooks...

Read more

7 Ways to Participate in #GivingTuesday

After a frenzied shopping weekend featuring tons of doorbusters and a few brawls, it's easy to feel a little disenfranchised with the holidays. This season is supposed to be about giving...

Read more

Leadership Style of Oveta Culp Hobby

Born in Killeen in 1905, Oveta Culp’s small Texas town beginnings belied what would be her legacy: to become the first woman appointed a colonel in the United States Army...

Read more

What's does "multicultural" really mean?

For citizens born in America, the term “multicultural” tends to sit on a spectrum of meanings, usually a connotation of something good. For many, it means celebrating cultures into which they...

Read more

Clanton: Going Postal in Houston

“A man’s gotta know his limitations.” (Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry) We manly men like to think of ourselves as capable of accomplishing anything. The more abilities we perfect, the more we...

Read more

Women: Participate in Business Golf Now!

Here in Houston, there are a plethora of year-round business opportunities for golfers. Every Monday, for example, there are countless charity events at public and private facilities all over town...

Read more
Join Houston Woman Community
BuyCurrent

From The Publisher

July has always been a big month for our family — one full of important days worthy of celebration! The Fourth of July, of course, is the big one. But, so too is the day before!

July 3rd is the day my parents got married. And, July 3, 2007 was especially significant. On that day, they celebrated their 60th anniversary!

The fact that my parents got married on a Fourth of July weekend is fitting. Their feelings for each other mirror perfectly their feelings for their country. As loving partners and devoted patriots, both are red-hot and true-blue!

A decorated

Read More
Join Our E-mail List
Email: