In a world of staggering excess, Jane Owen made simplicity a grace.
With impeccable taste and discernment, informed by a faith-filled heart, she saw and celebrated the Essential. Her widespread accolades as "a true visionary" were hard won and richly deserved.
It would be impossible to gauge the full scope and substance of he influence in countless quarters, as she was benefactor and friend to worthy causes great and small.
Hers was a profound presence in the lives of all who knew her well - a presence that will not be dimmed by her passing.
But she was, above all, a consummate artist, whose eloquent masterpiece is brushed in the subtle colors or her beloved New Harmony, Indiana. Its quiet and ordered streets will surely echo her sweet name for generations to come.
from the memorial service
The Roofless Church
July 25, 2010
Jane Blaffer Owen, was the daughter of Robert Lee Blaffer, a founder of the Humble Oil Co. (now ExxonMobil), and granddaughter of William T. Campbell, a founder of Texaco. Owen was recognized in both Houston, TX and New Harmony for her generous philanthropy. She came to New Harmony after marrying Kenneth Dale Owen. A native of New Harmony, he was a geologist and descendant of Robert Owen, a Scottish industrialist and reformer who came to New Harmony in the early 19th century to create an innovative, utopian society on the Wabash River.
After attending the Kinkaid School in Houston and the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut, Owen began her college career at Bryn Mawr and the Washington School of Diplomacy. She also studied at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she studied under the influential 20th century Protestant existential theologian Paul Tillich, whose ashes were later interred in a memorial park in New Harmony dedicated to him.
In 1941, she married Kenneth Dale Owen and they honeymooned in New Harmony, a utopian society founded in 1825 by his ancestor Robert Dale Owen. She was taken with the humble village and established the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation dedicated to transforming the long-neglected town into a major cultural and spiritual center. For that work, she received numerous honors and honorary degrees. In 2009, Owen was presented the Crowninshield Award, the highest honor given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She also was one of two persons in Texas to receive Commander of The British Empire, bestowed by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Jane Blaffer Owen drew on her aesthetics, her spiritual philosophy, her social connections, and her good fortune and philanthropic foundations to become a singular force in New Harmony. Among other things, she oversaw the restoration of several historical structures, the building, landscaping and decoration of the New Harmony Inn, the Red Geranium restaurant, the Roofless Church, public gardens, the Cathedral Labyrinth and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer ceramics studio (named for her mother), as well as the commission of numerous pieces of public sculpture.
Owen also helped behind the scenes to bring the arts to New Harmony and Evansville, with generous support for civic and cultural activities as New Harmony Theatre, the New Harmony Project (to develop scripts and screenplays), the New Harmony Gallery for Contemporary Art, the Evansville Museum, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana.
Jane Blaffer Owen passed away June 21, 2010 (the Summer Soltice) in Houston,Texas.
She leaves in New Harmony a legacy of good works including the creation of gardens, preservation of historic buildings, commissioning public sculpture and architecture. She set about to preserve its history, restore its homes and bring some of the greatest minds and artists to its door. Under Owen's leadership, both the town's spiritual and egalitarian nature were renewed.
New Harmony is again a center for learning and culture.