More than once, Helen Haddad politely declined to be the focus of a newspaper profile story.
She said she simply wanted see more focus on the arts programs and projects that she so passionately supported in Bartholomew County for nearly half a century. Those efforts focused on the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s youth music education to the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir.
Only when the Philharmonic moved to name its cozy, 125-seat performance hall in her honor did she relent from fighting the spotlight. In fact, when her name was literally added to the front door of the $2.5 million Helen Haddad Hall at 315 Franklin St. in 2020, she was humbled and elated.
“I’ve told my friends that I’ve got my name on a building,” she chuckled after getting her first look at the facility that now constitutes the first floor of the local orchestra’s headquarters in downtown Columbus. “I’ve told them to drive by and take a look.”
Haddad, a native of Oklahoma who came to Columbus in 1972, died Wednesday at age 89.
The decision to name the arts structure after Haddad was made official after she and husband Bob Haddad, the founder of Columbus Container and also a huge supporter of the Philharmonic and its youth programs, donated $1 million to the effort in 2018. Plus, the couple donated the very building to which the new hall is attached.
On the day of the structure’s groundbreaking in 2019, Mayor Jim Lienhoop proclaimed it Helen Haddad Day while the woman of honor beamed.
Years before, she was the 2002 Mayor Arts Award winner for her work with the Driftwood Valley Arts Council, Columbus Area Arts Council, plus serving as executive director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic’s forerunner.
She also served as education director for Columbus Indiana Philharmonic &Strings Education Program.
Columbus Area Arts Council executive director Kathryn Armstrong called Haddad “remarkable.”
David Bowden, the Philharmonic’s artistic director and a friend of Haddad since 1987, gushed about her impact.
“Helen was amazing,” Bowden said. “She impacted literally tens of thousands of children during her life. She was a remarkably strong advocate for involving children in making music. I was privileged to partner with her as we developed so many Philharmonic music education programs over 35 years.”
Plus, Haddad, who loved singing, was a longtime member of the Philharmonic Chorus performing at concerts. Her distant past was filled with music, too.
In the mid-1950s, she performed with a female vocal sextet appearing with a men’s glee club on national television’s “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“When Helen saw a need, she found a way to fill it,” Bowden said. “She and Bob have supported the Philharmonic with advice, buildings, underwriting our education director salary, and attending practically every education program we presented.
“Helen and Bob have been huge supporters of the arts – they have made an indelible impact in this community that they love.”
Haddad and her husband days ago were recipients of the governor’s Sagamore of the Wabash honor.