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Harriett Vatsures Semander was born in 1933, the youngest of four children, to Greek Orthodox immigrant parents. Throughout high school, she received four National Scholastic League Art Awards and was inducted into the National Honor Society. She graduated in 1950, and was awarded a PTA scholarship to study art at Southern Methodist University. Later, Harriett began a business career at Texaco Oil Company, but still enjoyed sketching portraits as a hobby. Before she married and moved to Houston in 1960, Harriett lived in Europe for four months and toured the Scandinavian countries.
In 1973, Harriett joined Kinkaid's Lower School as a fourth grade aide. In addition, she assisted in the business office during the summer months, and eventually secured the position of Middle School Registrar/Secretary and School Nurse under Principal Arthur Goddard. As the part-time nurse, Harriett realized the importance of a school healthcare program and successfully advocated for Kinkaid to hire a full time RN and construct an infirmary for the students. In addition, Harriett was at the forefront of appealing to the School to computerize report cards and grading.
After a personal tragedy, Harriett organized a crime victims awareness community service project to educate and sensitize middle school students to the violence in our city. This project won the Becky Reed Award from The National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children and was made available for other schools to use nationwide.
Harriett's volunteer work as an advocate for crime victims' rights in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and via Legislation was unmatched. From 1982-2005, she served on several crime victims committees and boards including: TDCJ Victims Advisory Committee, Parents of Murdered Children, Justice For All and Mayoral Task Forces on Crime. It was Harriett's efforts that ultimately led to the creation of a separate crime victim's division within the TDCJ. Furthermore, Harriett represented victims and testified before the state Legislature to change important laws, especially the mandatory early release law of violent offenders.
In 2005, in recognition of her contributions to uphold victims' rights, Harriett received the national Paul H Chapman Award from the Foundation for Improvement of Justice and the Leon Goldstein Award from Houston Crime Stoppers. Houston Mayor Bill White proclaimed March 1, 2005 as Harriett Semander Day. She also participated in two Crime Victim/Inmate mediation programs at Jester II Prison (Sycamore Tree and Bridges To Life).
Harriett is the widow of former Kinkaid Master Math Teacher Zahari (Zack) Semander. They have four children: Elena Semander '79, Maria Semander Crawford '82, JoAnna Semander Nicolaou '84, John Semander '88, and five grandsons: Ace Nicolaou '17, Zack Nicolaou '20 and Pete Nicolaou '23, and Daniels and Zane Crawford who live in California. Harriett has retired as a spokesperson for victims' rights and currently spends her time ministering to widows and foster children. She is grateful for the blessings in her life and gives thanks to the Grace of God for her strength and courage over the years.