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Businesswoman and philanthropist receives honorary doctorate from Appalachian

BOONE—Among the people receiving degrees from Appalachian State University this weekend was a distinguished businesswoman known for her philanthropy in North Carolina, Florida and New York.

Bonnie Schaefer of Blowing Rock and Florida received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during ceremonies May 13 for the Walker College of Business.

Bonnie_Schaffer_m.jpgBonnie Schaefer of Blowing Rock and Florida, left, received an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from Appalachian State University during ceremonies May 13. She is pictured with Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock.

The honorary degree recognizes an individual’s significant contributions to the state and nation.

“You can’t live in this community and not be touched by Bonnie Schaefer’s generosity, her thoughtfulness and her visionary leadership,” said Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock. “I have looked forward to this moment because she means so much to this university.”

Schaefer is former CEO and co-chair of the board of Claire’s Stores, and current owner of the world-renowned Relais & Chateaux property Westglow Resort & Spa in Blowing Rock. She is also the owner of Rowland’s restaurant, which she opened in honor of her father, Rowland Schaefer.

Peacock read from a letter nominating Schaefer for the honorary degree. “Appalachian State University’s commitment to changing the world one student at a time is perfectly embodied by Bonnie Schaefer whose devotion to improving the quality of life for others is reflected in her multitude of philanthropic and humanitarian projects across the globe and in her own community here in the High County and in her university home.”

Schaefer is an active participant in a number of charitable and community organizations in the High Country. She supports Appalachian’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies and is a board member of An Appalachian Summer Festival.

In 2011, she announced a significant gift to renovate Farthing Auditorium. When complete in summer 2013, the facility will be known as The Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Other important contributions to the arts in the High Country have been to the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum and Edgewood Cottage. A reflection of Schaefer’s love for animals is shown through her active support of the Watauga County Humane Society. She also provided the seed money to build the first and only synagogue in the High Country and is currently co-chair of the fundraising committee.

Schaefer is an ardent supporter of women’s rights locally and globally. She is a founding member of the Appalachian Women’s Fund and was co-recipient of their 2011 Women of Vision Award. She is also a supporter of Power of the Purse of the High Country Women’s Fund, which helps women take major steps out of poverty.

Elsewhere, Schaefer works for greater visibility and power for women in the media through her participation with the Women’s Media Center. She works with Equality Now to improve conditions for women and girls around the world. She co-chaired the Ms. Foundation for Women’s 2007 and 2008 Gloria Awards with her sister, Marla.

Schaefer was the honoree at the 2009 Gloria Awards, receiving the Woman of Vision and Action Award and served as honorary chair for the event in 2010 and 2011. She will be honorary chair once again for the 2012 Gloria Awards. She is a member of Women Moving Millions, a partnership of visionary donors, the Women’s Funding Network and its member funds.

Schaefer serves on the board of trustees of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and was the recipient of the 2011 South Florida Simon Wiesenthal Legacy Award. She is a Mount Sinai Medical Center founder, president of the center’s Foundation Board of Directors, a member of the hospital’s executive board of trustees and serves on the board’s compensation committee. She also serves on the host committee for the women’s division of the Weizmann Institute of Science and was honored as a Woman of Vision by the Weizmann Institute in 2000.

Schaefer attended the University of Miami and Skidmore College and also studied in Florence, Italy through Florida State University’s Overseas Study Center. She resides in Boca Raton, Fla., and Blowing Rock, with her partner of 19 years, Jamie.