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Founder - Diane Wolfthal

Diane Wolfthal, Founder and Coordinator of Friends of Phillis Wheatley High School, attended public schools until she received her Ph. D. in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.  While a college and graduate student, she was an active volunteer.  For several years she was the coordinator of a group of volunteers for Amnesty International, and she also directed their Uganda campaign.  She was also briefly a staff member at Community Impact, which places students at Columbia University in a range of community projects.  Diane was involved in their soup kitchen and also ran their Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.  She decided to purse a career in Art History, beginning her career as a professor at Columbia University and ending it as a professor and endowed chair in the Humanities at Rice University.  She authored five books, co-authored another two, and edited or co-edited five.  She was Chair of the Department of Art History at Rice University and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies program there.  She also was a Museum Scholar at the J. Paul Getty Research Institute and curated an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum.  In 1968 she married her husband Maurice, a middle-school teacher, and has two daughters and two grandchildren.


When she retired from Rice University in 2021, she decided to establish the non-profit (501c3) organization Friends of Phillis Wheatley High School.  Drawing on her social work experience at Community Impact, her administrative experience with Amnesty International and at Rice University, her years of teaching, and her strong belief in the value of public schools, she wanted to give back to public schools, since they had nurtured her as a child in New York.

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Our Board of Directors

Our Board features members from a wide array of industries and professions who each bring their own unique skillsets that contribute to our success. 

Paula Sanders, Joseph and Joanna Nazro Mullen Professor in Humanities and Professor of History 

Kay Swint, Former Director of Patient Experience at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Tiana Johnson, Visual Arts Director, Phillis Wheatley High School

Linda Neagley, Associate Professor Emerita, Rice University

Alan Wallach, Professor Emeritus, College of William and Mary

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