Lives of Style: Theo Schwabacher

Theo Schwabacher, just named one of Barron’s Top 100 Women in the United States, swiftly adjusts her sleek bob, strides forward like a young Katherine Hepburn in her faultlessly chic suit and segues easily from picking up her son at school to talk on topics spanning sports, success and personal responsibility.

Then she leans forward, smiling and laughing and sharing a confidence: “I was so impressed with the other nominees,” she demurs, “so many bright, capable and, yes, stylish women.”

Theo’s a hard act to follow. The woman is fashionably iconic, with laughing green eyes, a socialite who handles a full plate of philanthropic activities, a stellar businesswoman with 25 years’ of wealth-management experience who runs the prestigious Schwabacher Group at Morgan Stanley (consulting with high-net worth families), a world-class skier, an athlete.

But “Taffy,” as her very good friends call her, is more than her résumé. Schwabacher, a fourth-generation San Franciscan — “I even drove over the bridge to ensure my twins were born here” — is descended from The City’s establishment. Her grandmother, May Koshland, was “stunning in her own right. Had a devilish sense of humor — naughty.” Her full-lengthportrait hangs on Theo’s stairwell.

Theo attended Skidmore College, finished up at Occidental, in Los Angeles, and did graduate work at Wharton.She started doing charity work in her 20s: Junior League, co-founder of the Junior Auxiliary of the San Francisco Symphony; she’s now on the Cancer Society Board, Red Cross, the Merola Opera Board.

Starting her career in journalism at The Enterprise in L.A., then McGraw-Hill/Business Week, she segued to the stock market (her grandfather and father already had established their own firm) at a time when women were rare in the business.

She’s done well. “I love the business,” Theo says. “I’ve been lucky, breaking through the glass ceiling. I know how to do deals. It’s like creating a painting with each person.”

Theo met her husband, Michael Gallagher, when both were training to be ski instructors back East. Her 18-year-old twins, Roger Albert Taft and Theo Elisabeth, and son Aaron Michael, 14, have inherited their parents’ penchant for sports — and smarts.

The family’s spacious and gracious 1924 Mediterranean dwelling in San Francisco, purchased in 1991, is rife with artwork, family antiques, books — and, in the expansive multicar garage, walls of floor-to-ceiling sports gear. It’s a splendid abode, replete with the family’s history and personality. Twelve-foot ceilings and walls of windows face the Bay. Light walls and plank floors, neutrals and greens (“I like to bring nature inside,” Theo says) abide in harmonious peace and synchronicity. Family heirlooms reside comfortably with items purchased at auction.

Theo walks through the house purposefully, proffering tea. And then she regales visitors with a bit of banter. You can see the laughter in her eyes.

elaurence@examiner.com

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