Helen “Copey” Copenhaver Hanes ’39 Lives Life For Others
Wittenberg values education, passion and commitment to community. Helen “Copey” Copenhaver Hanes has spent a lifetime sharing those values in extraordinary measure, so much so that her alma mater recently bestowed on her an Alumni Citation Award for exceptional personal or professional accomplishment that has brought honor to Wittenberg. Her journey to Wittenberg began in Virginia, where her father, The Rev. Eldridge Copenhaver, served as interim president of then-Marion College, a Lutheran women’s junior college, during the Depression. The family lived on campus, and Hanes completed two years there before coming to Wittenberg, where her father had earlier received an honorary doctorate of divinity.
After graduation, Copenhaver traveled to North Carolina where she studied drama at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and later taught music and dramatic arts. Her love for the arts came naturally, and she grew up in an environment that nurtured her interest.
“It seems I always studied piano and voice,” Hanes said. “My mother was musical, and we loved dramatics.”
Her passion found multiple outlets, both as a philanthropist and as a volunteer, in Winston-Salem. With its long history as a community of artisans, Winston-Salem is also home to several educational institutions, including Salem Academy, where Hanes once taught, and Salem College.
“Salem College was established in 1752 and hasn’t closed its doors one day in all these years,” Hanes said. “It was founded by the Moravians, who have been wonderful custodians and neighbors.”
Hanes and her late husband, James Gordon Hanes Jr., president and CEO of the Hanes Corporation, established the North Carolina School of the Arts and provided financial support for the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University. Hanes supports other area schools, colleges, churches, galleries, museums and libraries. She also established the Centenary Scholarship Endowment Fund at Duke Divinity School, and scholarships to The Outdoor Academy of the Southern Appalachians. Her commitments have been recognized with a variety of honorary degrees and community awards. “It’s a lovely place to live – a cultural center,” Hanes said of her much loved Winston-Salem. “They’re always accusing me of working for the Chamber of Commerce.