Championing a Legacy Together

Andrea Cornett and Ginny Wiltse joke that after raising eight children, Helen Steiner Rice was their mother’s ninth child. This “child” was a beloved poet and inspirational writer who passed away at age 81 in 1981. Andrea and Ginny’s father, former Cincinnati Mayor Eugene Ruehlmann, was Helen’s attorney. Helen wanted to leave a legacy that would help the elderly and needy, so Ruehlmann helped her establish The Helen Steiner Rice (HSR) Foundation. Helen herself had experienced personal struggles. As a young woman, she gave up school to care for her sister and mother when her father died. Later, her husband committed suicide after the 1929 stock market crashed. She persevered, turning her thoughts into beautiful verse and was known as the “ambassador of sunshine” at her employer, Gibson Art Company.

After Helen’s death, Andrea and Ginny’s mother Virginia Ruehlmann went through her papers and unpublished poetry. Inspired by her findings, an agreement was made with Gibson that enabled HSR Foundation to publish the work. Income raised from these efforts was added to the foundation. “The combination of Mom’s efforts and a burgeoning stock market gave them a nice corpus to work with,” said Ginny, co-author of Helen Steiner Rice Ambassador of Sunshine. “The foundation grew from $1 million to $12 million.” Andrea became the foundation’s administrator. As the years passed, the work grew and the Ruehlmanns were aging as were the foundation’s other trustees. “Good stewardship demanded that changes be made,” said Ginny. “One of those was to turn over the original work to the Cincinnati Museum Center. Another part of good stewardship was to partner with GCF.” 

Ten years ago, HSR Foundation became a donor advised fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation with the trustees as fund advisors. A longstanding plan resulted in the recent transition to a field of interest fund at GCF, with a forever focus on the areas Helen cared about most. Since working with GCF, $4.5 million in grants have been made that support Rice’s legacy. This includes a yearly gift to the Community Foundation of Lorain County, benefiting Helen’s hometown. Both women believe that Helen and their parents would be happy with the legacy created. “GCF has been a fantastic steward of the fund, of Helen, and of our parents,” said Andrea. Happily, the good works of the ambassador of sunshine and her champions will shine forever.

Shared Dreams

by Helen Steiner Rice

In my eyes there lies no vision

but the sight of your dear face,

In my heart there is no feeling

but the warmth of your embrace.

All my dreams are built around you,

and I’ve come to know it’s true

In my life there is no living

that is not a part of you.

Used with permission of Helen Steiner Rice Foundation Fund, LLC
© 1985 Helen Steiner Rice Foundation Fund, LLC
A wholly owned subsidiary of Cincinnati Museum Center

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