August 27, 2004
Helen K. Copley, 1922-2004
Former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Trustee, Helen K. Copley, a leading business executive and philanthropist, died August 25, 2004, at her home in La Jolla, California. She was 81.
Mrs. Copley was a member of the original group of Trustees appointed in 1984 by the Delaware Court of Chancery to oversee the Institute. She served as a Trustee for 11 years, providing wise counsel and thoughtful guidance during a period of sustained growth and transformation for the Institute.
Mrs. Copley was chairman and chief executive officer of The Copley Press Inc., and publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune for nearly three decades. She retired in 2001, turning the company over to her son, David C. Copley. Mrs. Copley remained publisher emeritus and chairman emeritus of the company.
Mrs. Copley was born on November 28, 1922, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was educated at the Benjamin Franklin High School in Cedar Rapids and Hunter College in New York City.
As a philanthropist, Mrs. Copley supported many cultural and civic programs in the San Diego area, including the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Kroc-Copley Animal Shelter.
She also played an active role in many areas of community and public affairs. At the behest of President Gerald R. Ford, she was appointed to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year in 1975, where she served as a member of the executive committee and the media committee. She was the first woman to be elected as a director of the California Chamber of Commerce, and in 1978, Governor Jerry Brown of California asked her to serve on the California Commission on Government Reform.
She served on the San Diego Council on Literacy, and on the advisory board of the Washington Press Club Foundation's Oral History Project, as well as on the advisory committee of the World Press Freedom Committee.
Mrs. Copley had been honored for her contributions and leadership by many organizations, including San Diego's Conference of Christians and Jews Regional Brotherhood Award; the Woman of the Year Award from the Mexican and American Foundation; the Thomas Jefferson American of the Year Award; and the National Distinguished Community Service Award from the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith.
Survivors include her son, David C. Copley of La Jolla, California; a sister, Mary Frances Davison of Santa Maria, California; and a brother, Frank E. Kinney of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She also has two stepchildren from her husband's first marriage, Michael Copley of San Diego and Janice Obre of New York City.