Dorothy Humel Hovorka, Leader in Cultural Enterprises


Dorothy Humel Hovorka’s many contributions to culture and the arts seemed to cry out for the establishment of a special award. Such was the case in 1966 when the Cleveland Orchestra's board of trustees, the Musical Arts Association, created for her its Distinguished Service Award, which would henceforth recognize annually a person or organization that had demonstrated extraordinary service to the orchestra.

Hovorka’s love affair with the Cleveland Orchestra and symphonic music went back to 1949, when, as a young piano prodigy who had studied with Josť Iturbi, she made the first of six solo appearances with the orchestra, the last in 1959 under guest conductor Arthur Fiedler.

A longtime member of the Musical Arts Association (MAA), she led the orchestra’s Women’s Committee from 1959 to 1961 and chaired the biennial conference of the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers held in Cleveland in 1961. She subsequently became the only Clevelander ever to lead this national organization. Among the many visionary ideas she would bring to her decades-long service on the MAA’s executive committee (1969–present) was the concert-preview lectures given before symphony performances in Severance Hall, a program that continues to this day.

When the now-legendary Lake Erie Opera Theatre was launched in 1964, Hovorka was tapped to be president, overseeing seven seasons of fully staged opera productions with the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. The organization offered, as well, Opera for Young People performances, 17 of which were presented in Cleveland parks during a citywide summer arts festival she helped organize in 1967.

As president of the Cleveland Music School Settlement (1972–74), Hovorka spearheaded the establishment of the collaborative program that continues to serve as a bridge connecting children and teachers with University Circle’s cultural institutions. But it was no doubt her chairmanship of the Michelson-Morley Centennial Celebration at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 1987 that was foremost in the minds of the Cleveland Arts Prize in awarding Hovorka a Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts that year.

Commemorating an historic experiment involving the nature of light carried out by two scientists at Case School of Applied Science and Western Reserve University, the six-month-long celebration featured 17 Nobel laureates as speakers, five musical commissions (one premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra) and the installation of a permanent light sculpture atop Crawford Hall. Students from 300 schools in six counties took part in six competitionsin violin, organ, art, poetry, physics and chemistry. For her leadership of this impressive endeavor, for which she helped to raise $1 million in underwriting, Hovorka was presented with Case Western Reserve University's highest honor, the University Medal.

She would be honored again in 2000 for her extraordinary record of fund raising on behalf of CWRU. Yet, even then, Hovorka was not ready to rest on her well-deserved laurels. As part of an elite team of four heading up a campaign to raise $50 million for endowments, operations and needed capital improvements in CWRU's College of Arts and Sciences, she helped raise almost $91 million.

—Dennis Dooley






Cleveland Arts Prize
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