Columbus couple earns Sagamore of the Wabash award

Gov. Eric Holcomb has given two of Columbus’ biggest arts leaders, overall leaders and philanthropists the state’s Sagamore of the Wabash honor.

Bob and Helen Haddad, known for their extensive support of everything from the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic to the local Harrison Lake Country Club to Indianapolis’ Riley Hospital for Children, have been at the forefront of community giving and leadership for half a century.

They each have been given their own award for their wide-ranging service. Both are 89 years old.

Most recently, the husband-and-wife pair were in the limelight for making the $2.5 million, 100-seat Philharmonic venue and refurbished office space known as Helen Haddad Hall a reality at 315 Franklin St. in downtown Columbus. David Bowden, the orchestra’s longtime artistic director, has said more than once that few orchestras nationwide have such a space.

In June 2018, the Haddads announced their decision to donate $1 million toward the Philharmonic’s Building for the Arts Capital Campaign. The Haddads have long been key supporters of the Philharmonic’s youth programs, and Helen was a longtime singer in the Philharmonic Chorus.

The Haddads’ gift, made in two parts, included an outright gift of $500,000 seeking an additional $500,000 in matching funds. Members of the community stepped up and met that challenge within six weeks.

Plus, several years ago, the couple donated the building that houses Helen Haddad Hall.

The Haddads moved to Columbus in 1972, where Bob started Columbus Container Inc. He eventually grew the business to several other facilities before his retirement. Those locations included Seymour, Edinburgh, Indianapolis, Jasper and Flora, Illinois.

He purchased the local Harrison Lake Country Club in 2005, saving it from bankruptcy, retaining the iconic club as a gathering spot for the community and its families. He served as a director and president of Rotary, received the Small Businessman of the Year award in 1985, and Entrepreneur of the Year 1997.

Bob Haddad also was a governor-appointed board member for the Indiana Institute for New Business Ventures in 1985, a governor-appointed member to the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business, and served on the board of directors for the following: United Way of Bartholomew County; Distinguished Visitors Series; Indiana University Business Alliance; Columbus Enterprise Development Center; Irwin Financial Corp.; Indiana Economic Development Council; Columbus Area Arts Council; Columbus Rotary Club; Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce; and the Society of Package Engineers.

He also has been an active member, deacon, trustee, elder, and chairperson at North Christian Church. Plus, he was the Boy Scouts of America chairman for three Indiana counties.

Helen fueled the family community involvement by serving as president of Tri Delta, Book Mark Club, and serving with the Culture Club; Driftwood Valley Arts Council; United Arts Fund; Columbus Area Arts Council; Bartholomew County Library Associates; and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (Columbus Committee).

She also was recipient of the 2002 Mayor’s Arts Award. Plus, she served as education director for Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and its strings education program.

They have chaired many fund-raisers for the arts, social services and educationally focused organizations. They have been significant contributors in Indiana, creating the Haddad Foundation 2002, and providing funding to the Orchard School, University High School, Indianapolis Children’s Choir and Columbus Children’s Choir, Franciscan Health, Indianapolis Public Library, Boy Scouts of America, School on Wheels, Starfish Initiative, Providence Cristo Rey High School and Harrison Center for the Arts.

After selling Columbus Container several years ago, Bob has continued to mentor business leaders.