Philanthropist, Friend of UH Jane Blaffer Owen Dies At 95

The University of Houston has lost longtime friend and supporter Jane Blaffer Owen. The arts patron and philanthropist died, Monday, June 21 at the age of 95. Owen will be remembered for her love of the arts, architecture and higher education.

"Her passion for the arts and her continuing support for the University of Houston were unsurpassed," said UH President Renu Khator. "She has enriched our campus in so many ways. Her memory will live on in the contributions that have helped make UH a more beautiful and gracious place."

The daughter of Humble Oil (now Exxon) founder Robert Lee Blaffer and prominent arts benefactor Sarah Campbell Blaffer, Owen was raised in Houston. In 1941, she married oilman Kenneth Dale Owen.

Like her mother, Owen provided much support to UH’s creative landscape. Among her contributions to UH is Winged Victory, a bronze statue that greets visitors at the university’s Moores School of Music. It sits in a plaza named for her outside of the school and adjacent to the Moores Opera House. The statue and its setting were gifts from Owen, who dedicated the artwork to the "energy, optimism and friendship of Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen and to Lee and Sarah Blaffer."

She also was a tireless advocate for the museum bearing her mother’s name, UH’s Blaffer Art Museum. Through her support, the museum provides educational outreach programs aimed at Houston students and the community. She also was a vocal proponent for the museum’s renovation and possible expansion.

"The staff and board of trustees of the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston mourn the passing of Jane Blaffer Owen," said Claudia Schmuckli, director of the Blaffer Art Museum. "She enthusiastically embraced the institution’s mission and was uniquely invested in its future. Her commitment to the arts at UH was exemplary, and we are deeply affected by her loss."

Owen also served as inspiration for the university’s New Harmony Grotto. Based on a project she commissioned in 1963, the grotto follows the design of Austrian architect Frederick Kiesler. His design was intended for a site in one of Owen’s favorite retreats, New Harmony, Ind., but was never completed. Faculty and students are using contemporary technology to redesign and construct the grotto next to the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.

Mike Emery