Athena Blackburn is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and socialite in San Francisco, California. Born and raised in Lebanon and of Greek heritage, Mrs. Blackburn embodies a multicultural upbringing and considers herself a citizen of the world. When Mrs. Blackburn was growing up, Lebanon was considered the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ due to its ability to blend Eastern and Western cultures, and this was reflected in her culture and education. Mrs. Blackburn learned to speak five languages: French, English, Greek, Italian and Arabic.
After graduating from the American University of Beirut, Mrs. Blackburn visited San Francisco and stayed for five years. She briefly returned to Lebanon and then permanently moved to the United States, where she became a citizen in 1977. In the early 1980s, Mrs. Blackburn and her first husband founded the enormously successful Serena Software company. The success of the company enabled Mrs. Blackburn to begin her philanthropic initiatives.
Some of the many causes Mrs. Blackburn supported include UNICEF, the Junior League of San Francisco, and the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. Today, she remains involved with the San Francisco Symphony, Ballet, and Opera, and is a co-founder of Festival Napa Valley. She also supports Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Russian National Orchestra. As a result of her hard work and well-respected presence in the community, Mrs. Blackburn has been asked to serve on numerous boards and committees and chair galas and fundraisers in support of her causes. Similarly, she has been honored among the top volunteers in the San Francisco area and has had a day named in her honor in recognition of her efforts.
A champion of her adopted hometown, Mrs. Blackburn has always supported San Francisco, the Bay Area and California. She has served on the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Club of California for ten years. During that time, she has chaired the organization’s 100th anniversary gala and the United Nations Charter 50th anniversary gala. Mrs. Blackburn also was part of the committee to establish a ‘sister city’ agreement between San Francisco and Paris, accompanying then-mayor Willie Brown as part of a delegation trip to Paris.
In 1999, Mrs. Blackburn was diagnosed with breast cancer. With strength and perseverance, Mrs. Blackburn’s treatment was successful. Following her own battle with cancer, she funded the Athena T. Blackburn Radiation Therapy Suite at California Pacific Medical Center. Additionally, Mrs. Blackburn has provided hundreds of mammograms for women in need. In her own words, Mrs. Blackburn describes these gifts as her way of giving back to the hospital that saved her life. Additionally, Mrs. Blackburn credits her support system of friends and her husband, Timothy Blackburn, in making a substantial difference. In 2018, Mrs. Blackburn was honored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for her philanthropic efforts and given the Visionary Award.
Mrs. Blackburn has led her life with generosity. Continuing to do so, Lots 311 through 332 from her collection are being sold to benefit charitable causes. These twenty-two lots are reflective of a woman with a keen sense of style and penchant for design. Her collection indicates her eye for quality, whimsy and elegance. Jewels by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. include icons like the ‘Bird on a Rock’ and playful bow motifs. The multi-color sapphires expertly combined by Bulgari show her love of bold color. Classic pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels and diamonds by Graff round out Mrs. Blackburn’s exquisite collection.