Jewish women among Grand Center Visionary Award honorees

Earlier this week, I received a disturbing email. The message field read “TERRIBLE NEWS,” all in capital letters. The email was from columnist Lois Caplan, telling how she had fractured her right arm and shoulder and would need surgery. But that wasn’t her big concern. She was most worried that because of her accident, she would not be able to write about the Jewish women receiving Visionary Awards from Grand Center next month.

And so, it is in the spirit of not wanting to let Lois or her readers down that I’ll do my best to pick up the slack.

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The women being honored are Judith Aronson, Carol Staenberg and Jessica Hentoff. Aronson, a longtime local and national advocate and philanthropist for the arts and education, is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. Staenberg, through the Staenberg Family Foundation, has donated more than $3 million over the past few years to various arts organizations. She is appropriately receiving the Major Contributor to the Arts award. She and her husband Michael (a Trustee of the Jewish Light) also are incredibly generous when it comes to giving to the Jewish community, having donated $15 million to spearhead a $49 million capital campaign for the JCC. Its centerpiece fitness and wellness center, the Staenberg Family Complex, will open May 3.

The third Jewish honoree, Jessica Hentoff, is receiving the Outstanding Arts Edu-cator award. Hentoff is artistic and executive director of Circus Harmony/ Circus Day Foundation and founder of the St. Louis Arches. She recently spoke at the Monte Carlo Circus Festival on circus arts and social change, as a result of her 2007 collaboration between St. Louis youth and Jewish and Arab youth from Israel.

The seventh annual Visionary Awards will be given out at a ceremony and cocktail reception at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Boulevard, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 6. Ticket prices and individual sponsorships range from $55 to $125. Reservations and sponsorships can be made by calling Rachel Beatty at 314-289-1517 or emailing [email protected]

Seven women will receive awards that evening. In Lois’ email, she said she wanted to write about the four Jewish women getting awards, the fourth being Roseann Weiss. Weiss, who works at the Regional Arts Commission and is receiving the Outstanding Arts Professional award, is a longtime friend. That’s how I know she is not Jewish (though for years, I also assumed she was). Congratulations and a big hug to you, too, Roseann.

As lecture titles go, “In the Words of the Artist: The Influence of Age on Creativity and Expression” certainly caught my eye. It will be presented by Washington University’s Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 21 at the School of Medicine’s Eric P. Newman Education Center, 320 South Euclid.

The program focuses on the ways artists experience the aging process and how it affects creativity and expression. The presenters are an impressive bunch and include Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University and Joel Meyerowitz, an internationally recognized photographer of Ground Zero whose work will be on exhibit at the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in the Central West End from April 21 to May 30.

A panel of local artists — author Jan Greenberg; director of the Saint Louis Symphony Choir Amy Kaiser, architect Gyo Obata and executive director of Dance St. Louis Michael Uthoff — will talk about how their art has evolved and been affected by the aging process.

The program is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. Go to or call Mary Weiss at 314-286-2441 for reservations.

Now for a few shout outs to former work buddies who are being honored on Saturday, April 18 with a Virginia Betts White Quest Award from the Missouri Professional Communicators, an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. Congrats to Margaret Gillerman and Dan Martin, who both work at the Post-Dispatch, and Art Silverblatt, professor of communications and media at Webster University, and my first boss when I began teaching journalism there 28 years ago. Also, a big, Jewish Light you-go-guy to former P-D colleague Avis Meyer, who is receiving a special Lifetime Achievement Award. Meyer, a professor at St. Louis University and longtime mentor for the student newspaper, is probably best known for his highly publicized clashes with SLU President Rev. Lawrence Biondi.

Finally, all of us at the Light wish Lois Caplan a speedy recovery. Lois, we also hope that you are learning to type with your left hand. We need you back!