Vira was so moved by the life-changing power of foreign travel that she bestowed the gift upon generations of women.
In a city known for its active and concerned civic leaders, Vira I. Heinz was in the forefront. Born Vira M. Ingham in what is now the Brighton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh, in 1932 she married Clifford S. Heinz, son of Henry J. Heinz, founder of the food processing company. Clifford Heinz died in 1935. Over the next four decades, Mrs. Heinz actively engaged in philanthropic and civic work and did so much for so many. To mention a few of her more prominent works: vice President of the World Council of Christian Education and an active supporter of its work in Africa; she was a founder of the Civic Light Opera; president and principal benefactor of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony; and a member of the boards of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, the Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony Society.
Mrs. Heinz received the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Pittsburgh and honorary degrees from eleven colleges and universities. She was a trustee of Chatham College and the first woman trustee of Carnegie Mellon University. She served as a member of the board of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and was an honorary fellow of the American College of Hospital Administrators. As a member of the Board of Directors of the H. J. Heinz Company, she was the first woman board member of a multinational corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh. In the spirit of generosity that characterized her life, Vira I. Heinz provided in her will for the establishment of a charitable foundation.
Founded more than four decades apart, the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment were both the product of a family commitment to the community that began with H. J. Heinz and continues to this day.