MAY HELEN BYRN MAY Mrs. Helen Byrn May, age 96, of McLean, Virginia, passed away July 14, 2013 at Arleigh Burke Pavilion, McLean, VA. She was born on December 27, 1916 in Lawrence, Michigan to Foyle Northrup Byrn and Marshall Byrn of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Mrs. May spent her early years. Her father was the originator of the Industrial Arts Program at University High School and a professor in the Education Department of the University of Michigan. Mrs. May was a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, where she was inducted into Alpha Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity (SAI), a distinction of which she was very proud and in which she was very active as an alumna. Mrs. May served as President of the Washington DC Alumnae Chapter and for many years was a Province President. At the national level she directed Graduate Performance Awards Competitions and was a recipient of the fraternity's highest honors. Helen married Donald Curtis May, Jr., PhD, an Ann Arbor native and University of Michigan graduate. Dr. May earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Mathematics from Princeton University. In 1941 Dr. May began his distinguished career in the U.S. Navy department, where as a civilian, he attained a senior rank equal to that of Admiral. Following his retirement from the Navy Department in 1981, Dr. May was employed to do advanced research at the Applied Physics Department of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. May died in 1998. Mrs. May became a leader in Washington musical circles, including the National Symphony Orchestra's educational program, as founder and director of the NSO Young Soloists' Competition. She held many positions in the Friday Morning Music Club of Washington, served as President and later Chair of its Centennial Celebration. In 1986 she received the organization's special Honorary Member award. As Province President of SAI she installed college chapters of the organization. In this capacity Mrs. May met a young Howard University undergraduate, Jessye Norman, whom she immediately recognized as a superior vocal talent. Mrs. May became a valued mentor to Ms. Norman during her Howard University undergraduate years and the years she spent earning her Master of Arts Degree in vocal music at the University of Michigan. Mrs. May's brother, Dr. Robert Byrne, predeceased her. Mrs. May is survived by three sisters-in-law, Mrs. Carolyon Byrne Beuhler, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Mrs. Margaret May Mitchell, Winnetka, Illinois; and Mrs. Evelyn Woodson May, Washington, D.C. as well as 12 nieces and nephews. Mrs. May also leaves a large coterie of friends and musical colleagues, a number of whom she mentored during their early professional years. A memorial concert in honor of Mrs. Helen Byrn May will be held in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall of 2013. Condolences and remembrances may be sent to the family in care of Roger A. Andersen, 1215 Central Avenue, North Muskegon, MI 49445. A memorial concert in honor of Mrs. Helen Byrn May will be held in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall of 2013. Condolences and remembrances may be sent to the family in care of Roger A. Andersen, 1215 Central Avenue, North Muskegon, MI 49445.
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Published in The Washington Post on July 28, 2013