Ann Sheffer is a long-time Westport star.
The Westport native and 1966 Staples High School graduate has served her home town in countless ways, large and small.
After graduating with a degree in theater from Smith College, she earned a master’s in theater administration from Tufts, and an MBA from the University of Washington. Sheffer worked with a wide range of non-profit arts groups, on boards at the local, state and national levels.
A too-brief local list includes the Westport Arts Center, Westport Historical Society and Westport Library, plus literally dozens of town committees and events, from arts and education to history and culture.
She helped found the Westport Arts Advisory Committee in 1994, which thrives today.
A former trustee of the Westport Country Playhouse, she helped plan its early-2000s renovation (including procuring grants, preserving posters from its long history).
Sheffer has been named a WAC “Queen of the Arts,” and a Westport Weston Family YMCA “Face of Achievement.”
For 50 years she’s been a driving force behind the Betty R. Sheffer Foundation, named after her late mother.
(Her family’s roots in Westport go back even further. Starting in the 1930s, her grandparents spent summers and weekends in Westport. Their property, on the corner of Cross Highway and Bayberry Lane, predates the Merritt Parkway and Nike site — which became the Westport Weston Health District and Rolnick Observatory.)
At the national level, Sheffer served on President Clinton’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, and been an Americans for the Arts and Political Action Fund board member.
Her honors include the Athena Visionary Award, the Women Who Rule Award, and the Women In Philanthropy Award.
She and her husband, former Staples classmate Bill Scheffler*, had a second home in another arts community: Palm Springs, California.
Now Sheffer is a star there.
Earlier this month, she became the 460th person to be honored on the town’s “Walk of the Stars.” She was cited as a “Public Art Visionary” and “Humanitarian.”
Out west, Sheffer has chaired the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission, and been part of humanitarian and philanthropic agencies like DAP Health and the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
She has received the Equality California Community Leadership Award, and the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission Community Leadership Award.
Criteria for her most recent award note that a nominee should have “greatly distinguished themselves with altruistic deeds and significant contributions to their city, state and country. They should have received national or international recognition in the form of honors or awards. And they should be widely known by the general public to have impacted the lives of people locally or internationally, or have had a significant positive effect on…the health and well-being within the community.”
Sheffer has done all that, and more.
Of course, with Westport and Palm Springs sharing an arts sensibility — and with Sheffer’s continent-wide connections — there is an “06880” tie-in.
Six years ago, when she began chairing the Public Arts Commission, she put up a sign: “Imagine Art Here.”
It turned out that Scott had gone to Staples too. He graduated in 1988.
Ann commissioned one of Scott’s signs for the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, to celebrate Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow’s “Welcome to Art Town” newspaper column.
But it wasn’t until the Palm Springs “Walk of the Stars” dedication — attended by Ann’s daughter, Emily Reich — that they realized Emily and Scott had been members of the same BBS (early internet site).
He remembered her by her online name.
The stars definitely aligned for that one.
*It’s no coincidence their last names are similar. They met in the same alphabetically created homeroom at Staples, then reconnected years later.
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