Obituary and Condolences

Anna Seim White

February 13, 1934 November 18, 2018
Anna Seim White
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Obituary for Anna Seim White

Anna Seim White, a pillar of the Indianapolis arts community known for her warmth and grace, passed away peacefully on November 18, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Born on February 13, 1934 to Andrew and Annie Seim, Anna spent her childhood on a farm in Willow Lake, South Dakota and embarked from there on an extraordinary life of accomplishment, travel, and advocacy of the arts. Anna graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College (Sioux Falls) with degrees in Music and English, followed by a Master of Arts in Music and American Literature from the University of Minnesota. A lifelong student in and out of the classroom, Anna later pursued additional studies at the University of Michigan School of Music and the Aspen School of Music, and completed the Applause program for Executive Directors in the arts. She began her professional career as an assistant professor of music and it was at the University of North Dakota that she met her husband and lifelong partner, James P. White, to whom she was married for 54 years.

Upon moving to Indianapolis in 1966, Anna devoted herself to the support and development of art and music through her extensive and long-term involvement in and leadership with many of the city’s major cultural landmarks. She served as Chair, Life Trustee, and in numerous leadership capacities at the Indianapolis Museum of Art for over 30 years and as President and Member of the Board of its Contemporary Art Society and the IMA’s Alliance. Anna was a longtime Board member and Chair of the Indianapolis International Violin Competition and served in many capacities at the organization since its inception in 1982. She served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Indianapolis Symphony from 1984 to 1996, and continued on various committees until her death. She was a founding member of Dance Kaleidoscope and was on the Board of the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indiana Coalition for the Arts and served on the Indiana Arts Commission. Anna was especially passionate about music education for youth and served for over 25 years as the Executive Director of Young Audiences of Indiana, during which she was a member of the National Young Audiences Program committee for ten years. She also served on the Board of the Indiana Youth Institute, the Butler University Jordan College of Art and on the Fine Arts Advisory Committee for the Indiana Department of Education.

Many other Indianapolis organizations benefitted from her support and leadership, including the WFYI Public Television (Chair, Foundation), Ensemble Music Society, the Indianapolis Women’s Club (President), the Chamber of Commerce, the Allen Whitehall Clowes Charitable Foundation, the Family Service Association, the Aspen Music School, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, the Children’s Museum, the Indianapolis Arts Center, the American Pianists Association, the Eiteljorg Museum, and the Indy Jazz Fest. She was also a member of the Portfolio Club and Woodstock Club.

As one of Indiana’s leading arts advocates, Anna was recognized for her service by many organizations, receiving the Indiana Museum of Art Lifetime Achievement Award, the WFYI Alice M. Ross Award, the ARTI award from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the Nuvo Cultural Vision Award Lifetime Achievement award, and an honorary doctorate degree from the Butler University. In 2004, the Indianapolis Symphony honored her with a program of her favorite pieces and included a one-time performance of Haydn’s Toy Symphony in C major by representatives of eleven groups on whose boards Anna had served. She has also been recognized by Augustana College, the Volunteer Action Center, the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, and the Arts Council of Indianapolis. She was awarded the prestigious “Sagamore of the Wabash” by Governor Evan Bayh in 1990.

Although Anna’s accomplishments and awards are many, she will be remembered for leading a vibrant life, always interested in the world around her, and bringing her generous intellect, open mind, warm personality and collaborative spirit to all aspects of her life. She travelled extensively around the world with her husband Jim, where her love of learning and her interest in others served her well. She was a gracious entertainer who opened her home to friends and visitors from around the world, a wonderful ally and partner to Jim in his endeavors, an avid gardener, an accomplished musician and immensely proud of her Norwegian heritage. As the first woman chair of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and a founding member of the Women’s Fund of Indiana, she supported the strength and success of women. Her sense of humor and delight in the world forged long lasting friendships across all age groups. She left a long legacy in the arts community and will be sorely missed by her family, her friends and so many others.

Anna is survived by her husband, Jim, and her nieces and nephews, Henry Helgen and Michele Kelm Helgen (Minneapolis, MN), Anne Helgen and Michael Gilligan (Belmont, MA), Kristi Helgen (Eagle River, AK), John Anders and Barbara Linnell (Viroqua, WI), Erik Linnell (Hastings, MN), and Anna Louise Linnell (Decorah, IA). In addition, she leaves grandnieces and nephews, to whom she was most generous and loving. She is preceded in death by her sisters, Ruth Helgen and Naomi Linnell.

Visitation will be Tuesday, November 27 from 2 pm to 5 pm at Leppert Funeral Home, 740 E. 86th St. Family and friends are cordially invited to Anna’s funeral at 11 o’clock on November 28 at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 526 E. 52nd St. (corner of 52nd and Central) . Burial will be in the White family plot in the old section of St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Iowa City, Iowa.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to one of the organizations that Anna served or your favorite charity.


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11:00 AM 1/25/2019 11:00:00 AM
St. Joseph's Cemetery- Iowa City

1122 N. Dodge Street
Iowa City, Iowa 52245

St. Joseph's Cemetery- Iowa City
1122 N. Dodge Street Iowa City 52245 Iowa
United States

Cemetery Details


St. Joseph's Cemetery- Iowa City Final Resting Place

1122 N. Dodge Street
Iowa City, Iowa 52245

1122 N. Dodge Street Iowa City 52245 Iowa
United States

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