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Helen S. Schaefer

Dr. Helen S. Schaefer, a champion of arts and cultural organizations and endeavors at the University of Arizona and across Southern Arizona, as well as a prolific supporter of the Pima County Democratic Party, and the namesake of the Poetry Center‘s Helen S. Schaefer Building, died on September 1st, 2022. She was 89.

Helen S. Schaefer and her husband, University of Arizona President Emeritus John P. Schaefer, spent more than 60 years supporting arts and cultural organizations in Tucson, volunteering on boards and making significant financial contributions to PCDP.

Helen served on several other boards including the League of Women Voters, United Way, Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra League, now known as the League of American Orchestras. She was also a Catalina Democrat, committed to supporting the Pima County Democratic Party through annual donations of $1,000.

Born in 1933 in Evanston, Illinois, she studied chemistry at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. She continued her studies in chemistry at the University of Illinois, where she met John. The Schaefers moved to Tucson in 1960, when John joined the Department of Chemistry faculty. Helen completed her Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Illinois in the 1970s.

Completing her doctoral studies had long been a personal goal, not a matter of career advancement, Helen told Archive Tucson, an oral history project from University Libraries’ Special Collections.

“I just mostly did it for my satisfaction, to know that I had actually finished something,” she said. “I didn’t like leaving something undone.”

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