Society / Featured Parties

Miracle Worker Chairwoman Helps This Houston Museum Gala Raise a Record-Breaking $2 Million

COVID Times Cannot Limit Ingenuity or the Power of a Personal Touch — How Bobbie Nau Made HMNS' Dreams Come True

BY // 03.09.21

Never. Never in the millions of years of paleontology that are displayed in the Houston Museum of Natural Science would anyone have imagined that a black-tie gala with limited attendance and held during the time of COVID-19 would reach new historical heights of fundraising. But thanks to the Herculean efforts of chairwoman Bobbie Nau, the museum saw unprecedented gala proceeds.

“During one of the most difficult times that this country and this city have seen in several decades, she pulled off a miracle,” HMNS president and CEO Joel Barsch told the very socially distanced gathering of a mere 250. “Bobbie obliterated all previous HMNS fundraising records by raising in excess of two million dollars.”

With that announcement, a standing ovation and toast ensued for the resolute lady who helmed the “Tour the World” gala. The question that then reverberated at tables sprinkled throughout the Morian Hall of Paleontology and the Paleontology Overlook was “How did she do it?”

So, we asked.

“I wrote everyone a personal card, handwritten by me on nice stationery, that was not just ‘Hope you can join me’,” Nau tells PaperCity. Her notes — 650 in total — included her passion for the museum and the role it plays in educating children and serving families. She also emphasized that the museum is private and receives no government funding.

“People understood,” she adds. Nau allowed that she committed herself to writing 25 of those notes a day until her task was complete.

So, what about the night? It was simply grand.

For most in the masked (and temperature checked) crowd, it was their first black-tie, if not their first society outing, since the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns of last March. Only on that first night officially out did many realize how very much they had missed the interaction with friends and acquaintances.

Most had had their COVID-19 shots making socializing more genial. The hand sanitizers at every place setting and the masked and gloved serving staff adds to the sense of safety.


As is tradition, the evening began in the Alfred Glassell Jr. Hall, centered overhead by the magnificent 23-foot in diameter moon sculpture and closed there with dancing to the tunes of Hybrid 7.

In the interim guests could indeed tour the world via the museum with the doors open to The Hall of Ancient Egypt, the stunning Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, the George W. Strake Hall of Malacology, and the Frensley/Graham Hall of African Wildlife and more.

City Kitchen delivered, as would be expected, the fancy fare of crab cake and beef tenderloin while The Events Company dressed the entrance hall and the dinner tables in brightly colored floral arrangements centered with globes.

For the record, the March 7, 2020, gala (when COVID was only first rearing its ugly head — at least in public consciousness in the United States) was attended by 560 and raised, a then record $1,795,000. The museum gala is known for its silent auctions, which contributed significantly to the bottom line of both the 2020 and 2021 evenings.

PC Seen: Laurie and Reed Morian, Jessica and Tom Roupe, John Nau, Hallie Vanderhider, Cathy and Steve Green, Al Walker, Kim and Scott David, Franelle Rogers, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Callie and Andy Gaines, Julie and Gary Roberts, Marc Grossberg, Cyvia Wolff, Lesha and Tom Elsenbrook, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Lacey and Evan Meechan, Jenna Lindley and Taylor Anne Adams.

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