Sylvia was born in Bay Springs, Mississippi and was a graduate of The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), and she married John M. Sullivan on June 2nd, 1958 – only one day after their graduation, the Ole Miss Rebelette and Sousaphone player became partners for life. She and John called Houston home after moving here six times – twice to the same house. They also had fond memories of living in New Orleans, Detroit, and Tokyo.
Sylvia had a career in Advertising, Public Relations, and Design. She was “Janet Wentworth” for J. Weingarten, Inc., where she made radio and television commercials, gave lectures and programs for the tri-state area served by the company. She was then transferred to First City National Bank, where she was Director of Special Events and Publicity for the First Citian, a special client organization. She then served as Director of Special Events for River Oaks Bank and The Numbered Account Society. In New Orleans, she served as Director of Advertising and Public Relations for Hibernia Bank, and in Tokyo, she started a Design Company with clients such as G.E. and Conoco. In addition, she was a Consultant for the International Homebuilders Division of the Mitsui Corporation. In Tokyo, she designed home interiors for several embassies near the resort city of Karuizawa. Sylvia traveled frequently to several Asian countries with her husband while living in Tokyo, which she felt was an education in itself. While in Tokyo, she was on CNN’s Elsa Klench show “Style” to show and tour the Tokyo apartment, which was one of six selected for the Tokyo American Club for its spring home tour.
Back in Houston, Sylvia served on a number of Boards including: The Asia Society; Houston Grand Opera; the Huffington Center for Aging; the Open Door Mission; and, Recipe for Success. She served on the Boards of: Theatre under the Stars; the Blaffer Gallery; Houston Community College; the Heritage Society; Society for Performing Arts; the Detroit Opera Studio; the New Orleans Opera; Le Dames d’Aspen. Sylvia’s great creativity and vision led her to spearhead many fundraising efforts for those organizations. She chaired events for: the Asia Society Japan 2000 and later Fiesta Filipina; the Good Samaritan Pearl Ball; Northwood University’s Royal Ball’s 50th Anniversary; and, the All American Celebration for The Open Door Mission. She also chaired Houston Grand Opera’s Opening Night Gala, as well as chairing – alongside her late husband John – HGO’s Concert of the Arias. She was commissioned Yellow Rose of Texas by the State of Texas in 1987 by then-governor William “Bill” Clements, Jr. Sylvia was honored as a Woman of Distinction by Houston’s ABC Channel 13 in 2007.
She and John were honored at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Westview School in Houston for high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder. Sylvia received the Ann Morrow Lindberg Spirit of Excellence award from The Huffington Center on Aging. In addition to civic and cultural activities, Sylvia and John hosted many a fabulous evening for friends – old and new – in their homes, and numerous evenings for charitable organizations and cultural institutions, including: Taste of Asia for The Asia Society; Imperial Dinner for March of Dimes; and, Symphony Scores for The Houston Symphony. Sylvia’s loyalty and dedication to her family and friends was one of her greatest attributes.
Her family considered her the star of the party, and sometimes even the party itself. Her family and friends are spread throughout the world. She is survived by her son, Michael, daughter-in-law, Carol, and two perfect grandchildren, Melissa and John, as well as a fabulous cat Shanti.
Family and friends are invited to a celebration of Sylvia’s life from five until seven o’clock in the evening on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at Bradshaw-Carter Memorial & Funeral Services, 1734 West Alabama Street in Houston.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Sylvia’s memory may be directed to Houston Grand Opera, 510 Preston Street, Houston, Texas 77002; The Westview School, 1900 Kersten Drive, Houston, Texas 77043, and the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, 565 N. 5th Avenue, Laurel MS 39440.
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Houston Grand Opera
510 Preston Street, Houston TX 77002
The Westview School
1900 Kersten Drive, Houston TX 77043
The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
565 N. 5th Avenue, Laurel MS 39440