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Margaret Alkek Williams is considered one of Houston’s most devoted fine and performing arts supporters. It is impossible to talk about the arts in Houston without thinking of Margaret and her influence across the city’s cultural community….which is indeed legendary!
Margaret Alkek Williams was born in Victoria, Texas. Her affection for the arts has been a lifelong journey and was largely influenced by her mother, Margaret Alkek. Throughout her childhood, she performed in musicals and operettas. Margaret studied acting at Stanford University and earned a music degree from the University of Texas. She performed with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society in Philadelphia in the 1950s and upon her return to Houston in 1960, Margaret sang with the Houston Grand Opera Chorus in productions such as Turandot, La Traviata and Romeo and Juliet.
As Chairman of her family’s foundation, she continues to honor the legacy of giving of her parents, Albert and Margaret Alkek. Several years ago, Margaret made the decision to provide transformational gifts to the arts organizations that she dearly loves. These generous gifts have provided a major impetus for new productions, buildings, endowments and programs for the Alley Theatre, the Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Margaret’s most recent gift in May of 2022, was an incredible $10 million legacy gift to Houston Ballet. Her gift to the Company’s endowment fund is the largest ever received. In recognition of her gift, Houston Ballet’s state-of-the-art training facility is now known as the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Dance. Margaret’s generosity will enable Houston Ballet to flourish for generations to come, to maintain the building and continue the Ballet’s mission to inspire a lifelong love of dance in perpetuity.
Margaret’s previous gifts to Houston Ballet include endowing the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation Principal Dancer, production support for Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake, a capital campaign gift naming the Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Lab, and the endowment of the Company’s annual one-night-only gala performance, the Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance.
Other major arts organizations receiving milestone gifts include: Houston Grand Opera in 2011 to create the Margaret Alkek Williams General Director Chair Fund, a position currently held by Khori Dastoor; Houston Symphony in 2015 to create the Margaret Alkek Williams Executive Director/CEO Chair held by John Mangum; Alley Theatre in 2015 to support the capital campaign. In recognition of her generosity, the entire fourth floor of the newly renovated theatre was named the Margaret Alkek Williams Terrace Level; Houston Methodist in 2016 to establish the Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Performing Arts Medicine Endowment for Arts Integration. The endowment will allow the Center to continue in perpetuity the 100 plus live performances for Houston Methodist patients and guests throughout the year.
Finally, in 2019, Margaret directed a gift of several million dollars to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to permanently endow the directorship of the Museum of Fine Arts, held by Gary Tinterow. An intimate dinner was held to honor Margaret for her generosity to the Museum at which heads of the major arts organizations each stood to express their appreciation. Dean Gladden, Executive Director of the Alley Theatre concluded with the following quote by George Bernard Shaw as he believed it summed up Margaret’s commitment to lifelong philanthropy.
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”
Brooke Staffing Companies / New Orleans Auction Galleries
Susan D. Sarofim has long believed in creating opportunities instead of waiting for them to happen. This fact shows prominently in her efforts to make positive changes for the communities in which she calls home through both her professional and philanthropic endeavors.
Susan opened Brooke Staffing Companies Inc. in 1989, operating the award-wining offices in New Orleans and Houston for 33 years. Additionally, she owns New Orleans Auction Galleries – a prominent auction house, representing estates and private collections through unique offerings of antiques, art, estate jewelry and more.
After relocating from New Orleans to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Susan co-founded the independently operated nonprofit To Educate All Children (TEACH). TEACH provides educators in the Houston and Aldine Independent School Districts with the fundamental class management skills to teach at-risk students.
Susan currently serves on the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System Board and has previously served as the board chair of the Memorial Hermann Foundation, a member of the TEACH Board, a member of the Houston Community College Foundation Board and a member of the Labor, Education and Health Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Included in the list of many worthy civic and charitable groups for which she has served as co-chair are the UNICEF Annual Audrey Hepburn Society Ball, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce Gala, Memorial Hermann’s Circle of Life Gala, Hermann Park Conservancy Luncheon, Houston Humane Society No-Gala and the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market Preview Party.
She has been honored by many organizations including UNICEF, Houston Ballet, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Easter Seals, Houston Community College, El Centro de Corazon Community Health Clinic, Women of Substance (benefiting The Mission of Yahweh), Zina Garrison Academy and the Citizens for the Protection of Animals.
In 2018, Susan was awarded the “Women Who Mean Business Lifetime Achievement Award.” In 2016, she was inducted into The Greater Houston Women’s Hall of Fame, the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Hall of Fame and was also a Best Dressed Award winner in 2011 and 2013. She was listed as one of the 2017 Greater Houston – “Women to Watch in Business.”
Susan is the mother of three: Lori Krohn Sarofim who resides in Houston with husband Alp Gener and children Lili, Serenella and Evren; Kelly Krohn Buchanan who resides in Washington, DC with husband Benjamin Buchanan; and David Lee who resides in Houston. She also is the owner of Bella, a one-year-old golden retriever, who is loving and loyal (despite a widely purported reputation in and around River Oaks for being somewhat rambunctious and rowdy).
Susan and her beloved husband Fayez S. Sarofim, who passed away in 2022, shared a mutual commitment to philanthropy throughout their marriage. She continues to honor his legacy through meaningful and wide-ranging support of the Houston community.