Vira I. Heinz, 1888-1983
In a city known for its active and concerned civic leaders, Vira I. Heinz was among the foremost. She was born Vira M. Ingham in what is now Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood. In 1932 she married Clifford S. Heinz, son of Henry J. Heinz, founder of the food processing company. Clifford Heinz died in 1935. During more than four decades that followed, Mrs. Heinz was active in the philanthropic and civic work for which she is now remembered.
She did so much for so many that it would be impossible to list the full range of her activities. A few of the more prominent included serving as vice president of the World Council of Christian Education and becoming an active supporter of its work in Africa. She was a founder of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, president and principal benefactor of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, and a member of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony Society boards.
Mrs. Vira I. Heinz received the Chancellor's Medal from the University of Pittsburgh and honorary degrees from 11 colleges and universities. She was a trustee of Chatham College and the first woman trustee of Carnegie Mellon University. She served as a member of the board of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and was an honorary fellow of the American College of Hospital Administrators. As a member of the H. J. Heinz Co. board, she was the first woman board member of a multinational corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh. In the spirit of generosity that characterized her life, Mrs. Vira I. Heinz provided in her will for the establishment of a charitable foundation.