Sheila Long Armstrong
Etiquette Author is Meant for Great Things
Sheila Long Armstrong, class of 1963, comes from a family of dreamers who act on their dreams. They start things—big things. Her great-great grandfather founded The London Times. Her grandfather helped to perfect the ice machine and later had a significant hand in assisting Howard Hughes to fine tune the drilling bit.
Armstrong, equipped with a B.A. in education and propelled by important voices of encouragement, has proven herself a grand solver of other people’s problems. She developed a remedial reading program adopted by the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, cofounded Houston’s first commercial limousine service and became a best-selling author.
Everything she does identifies a need and then fills it.
But her early path to these accomplishments was not always clear to her. When, as a teenager, Armstrong declared her intention to become a dental hygienist, she got a resounding “No” from the family.
“You,” they informed her, “are meant for great things.”
The “clan,” as she refers to her wise and tight-knit family, was right about that and other decisions.
Armstrong remembers, “I was accepted to Rice and they said ‘No, you’re going to University of St. Thomas because you’ll learn so much more there.’
“The professors at UST also told me that I was meant for greatness. They inspired me to take charge of my life, be the best I can be and know that we—all of us—are the guiding force to help others.”
At Houston’s only Catholic university, Armstrong received lessons in business through a remarkable arrangement she brokered with Fr. Edward Lee, CSB, a brilliant priest who loved to cook.
Recalling the story with delight and without a trace of squeamishness in her easy, southern voice, Armstrong said, “I used a knife and tweezers and removed shotgun pellets from squirrels, so Fr. Lee could prepare them as savory entrees for businessmen. In return, I got to listen to those dinner meetings, and I learned so much!”
What she heard with enthusiasm time and again was the proposal of a new goal, lively discussions over why that goal mattered, and brainstorming around challenges and solutions on the path to reaching that target.
“That process is how I was able to develop a remedial reading program when I was a young teacher,” Armstrong said. “I certainly used it when my husband and I started our limo service. And it’s how I was able to write my book.”
Armstrong’s Barnes & Noble bestseller in its 15th printing this fall—“The Little Book of Etiquette, Tips on Socially Correct Dining” published under Shelia Long —began with her identifying a problem.
“I wrote it because I saw that people were losing jobs, which hurt their families and all because these good people were dining slobs,” Armstrong said.
The author is currently at work on her second book and keeping its focus a secret for now.
Armstrong’s latest cause puts her at the head of Greater Houston First Book, which distributes books to students in low-income areas, so they can learn and go on to do their great things.