In an evening filled with suspense and surprises, literacy champions joined former first lady Barbara Bush, Neil Bush and Maria Bush and other members of the Bush family for a special holiday party and the Celebration of Reading 2017 author reveal.
Past major donors, event committee members and supporters of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation arrived at the beautiful home of Rhonda and Michael Graff ready to hear what best-selling and acclaimed authors would be joining the Bush family on stage at the Hobby Center on April 20, 2017 for the Celebration of Reading. But the 150 guests at the private party soon also learned of the spectacular literacy and architectural gift all of Houston will soon be receiving.
With his mother sitting nearby, Neil Bush, co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, told the story of another event he had attended earlier in the day. Neil went downtown to join Mayor Sylvester Turner for the official announcement that the Houston Central Library Plaza will be named Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza in honor of the former first lady, along with a $5.5 million fundraising campaign to pay for renovation of the plaza. Neil also recounted that before plans of the naming and renovation were to be made public, his parents decided they would personally kick off the campaign with a $500,000 donation to the project.
When completed, the plaza will include two reading gardens, one for children and another for adults, a café with shade trees, a large viewing screen for public movies and other visual events, and a designated lawn for art exhibits.
After much applause for and congratulations to Barbara Bush, Neil Bush brought the party back to two of the many reasons his mother’s name has become so synonymous with promoting literacy, the Foundation and the Celebration of Reading. The suspense was finally broken when Bush revealed the 2017 Celebration’s line up will include Bill Browder, author of Red Notice; comedian, actor and TV Land star Jim Gaffigan who wrote the book Food: A Love Story; and renown mystery writer Sue Grafton, best-selling author of the Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series. Neil Bush hinted that other names would likely be joining the list.
Though she demurred from making any formal remarks, Barbara Bush received the biggest laughs of the evening with some of her encouraging and pithy asides from her chair at the fireplace.
During his presentation, Neil Bush also thanked and foundation president Julie Finck, who gave an inspirational overview to guests on how the investments from donors to the Celebration of Reading are helping to spread literacy throughout the Houston community.
Spotted in the crowd were Pierce Bush, Alice Burguieres, Joe and Cathy Cleary, Joel and Tammy Cowley, Ron Finck, Charles and Lilly Foster, Greg and Gail Garland, Mehrnaz Gill, Robert and Grace Givens, Bill and Iris Griffiths, Don and Joni Haley, John and Betty Hrncir, Rock and Trish Morille, Houston City Council member Jack Christie, Frank and Stephanie Tsuru, Dancie Ware, Danny Ward and Nancy Ames, and Margaret Alkek Williams.