Kansas City Civic Leader Shirley Bush Helzberg Receives Honorary Doctorate from the UMKC Conservatory


Kansas Citian and noted civic leader Shirley Helzberg is awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts honoris causa from the UMKC Conservatory at the Spring Commencement, May 18, 2013. The ceremony is in Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened to international acclaim, September, 2011.  Mrs. Helzberg gives the commencement address to the Conservatory's 2013 graduates, as well.

Shirley Bush Helzberg has served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Kansas City Symphony since 1995.  During her tenure, the Kansas City Symphony has become a national leader.  The appointment of Music Director Michael Stern (UMKC honorary doctorate recipient in 2011), the opening of the Symphony's acoustically superior home, Helzberg Hall, and the Kansas City Symphony's nationally broadcast 2012 Homecoming concert with soprano Joyce DiDonato on PBS, highlight Mrs. Helzberg's stewardship of the Symphony. 

Helzberg is a founding board member of The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and was recently announced as chair of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's board of trustees.  She is also chair of The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and founding chair of The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City.

Though steadfast in her commitment to Kansas City, Mrs. Helzberg also serves leading national arts organizations.  She is a past board member of New York's League of American Orchestras, and of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Colorado.

Mrs. Helzberg co-founded University Academy in 2000, a K–12 public charter emphasizing college preparatory for students from the Kansas City, Missouri School District.  The mission of the school is to help solve the problem of urban education in Kansas City, to achieve 100% acceptance to a university or college, and to assist the students through completion of their undergraduate degree.  In 2005 University Academy celebrated the opening of its state-of-the-art building, serving more than 1,000 students.

Conservatory Dean Peter Witte notes, "Shirley Bush Helzberg is at once inviting and visionary.  She sees the arts and education as key to our region's future.  Her accomplishments with the Kansas City Symphony and her commitment to University Academy exemplify her range.  In ways joyful and profound, Shirley Bush Helzberg helped to shape Kansas City's urban renewal.  We are honored to celebrate her accomplishments and those of the Conservatory's class of 2013."

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Name: Dana Self
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