A Celebration to Honor Dr. Henry Givens Jr.



In June 2011, a high profile group of business and community leaders in the St. Louis area joined together to plan a celebratory tribute for one of the city’s most dynamic and passionate leaders, Dr. Henry Givens, president of Harris-Stowe State University.

Dr. Givens had recently announced his retirement as president of the University after serving in the role for more than 32 years. During his tenure, the University increased its number of degree programs for one to 14, grew from one building to eight, and positively influenced and touched tens of thousands of lives in the community.

In addition to his service to Harris-Stowe, Dr. Givens had been a prominent leader in the St. Louis region and beyond. He served on numerous corporate boards and was also the founding chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Statewide Celebration Commission for Missouri, a position he held for more than 25 years. In addition, he was appointed by President Obama to serve on the HBCU Capital Finance Program Advisory Board.

To commemorate his unprecedented leadership, a volunteer dinner committee comprised of prominent area leaders was formed to honor Dr. Givens and to establish a permanent scholarship, promoting academic excellence at Harris-Stowe State University, in his name. The date of November 4, 2011 was set for a dinner event to honor his achievements, as well as to raise monies for the Harris-Stowe State University Foundation which would be the entity funding the permanent student scholarship in his name. Schumacher Creative was responsible for producing the event.

The intended audience for this event was community leaders, professional colleagues of Dr. Givens, and individual and corporate donors to Harris-Stowe State University.

The goals and objectives of “A Celebration to Honor Dr. Henry Givens” were twofold. First, to raise a significant sum of money to fund a permanent scholarship in Dr. Given’s name for the students of Harris-Stowe State University, to be endowed through its foundation.

The second goal was to gather together those who had worked with Dr. Givens throughout his career to honor him as he retired after 32 years of service to the University. It was the client’s desire to keep the event simple and concise, as well as keep costs to a minimum, allowing the maximum amount of the monies raised to go toward the students’ educational needs.

The theme “A Celebration to Honor Dr. Henry Givens” was chosen to set a cheerful and positive tone for the evening, ushering this great leader and his wife into the next phase of their lives. There were only five months from the initial committee meeting to plan the event and the actual event itself. As such, continual communication between the event producer, Schumacher Creative and the client was critical. Lots of work needed to happen quickly and efficiently to make the event a reality, much less a success. Work plans, draft of materials and concepts needed to be well thought and nearly perfect from the start, as the timeline for the event did not allow for numerous revisions.

“A Celebration to Honor Dr. Henry Givens,” was held on November 4, 2011, just five months after the initial idea of the celebration came to life. More than 250 people were in attendance to wish Dr. Givens and his wife, Belma, a retirement filled with good health and happiness, as well as to raise money for the scholarship in his name. The event received tremendous community support from both individual and corporate sponsors.

In addition to the numerous business, educational and governmental leaders that honored Dr. Givens with their kind words, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of a check to Dr. Givens in the amount of $195,000, the net proceeds of the event that will be used to name a permanent scholarship in his honor. The event was the largest single fundraising event in the school’s 150-year history.

These additional scholarship monies will allow the University to continue its growth and to attract the best and brightest students to its campus for many years to come. It was a a wonderful way to honor and pay tribute to the powerful work of this dedicated educator and leader, whose work at Harris-Stowe may have ended, but will continue to inspire and help HSSU students in the future through the memory of his service and this endowed scholarship.