Sunday, March 15, 2009
Caroline S. Mark
If you wander halfway up the globe from the Equator, then a quarter way around the globe from the Prime Meridian, 45' N 90' W, you find yourself nestled in the pines of north central Wisconsin in a community that might be a million miles from anywhere, a place where lumber barons established empires and insurance companies dot the landscape, where dairy farmers mingle with industrialists.
Wausau. The faraway place.
It was in that faraway place, on a quiet street atop a hillside overlooking the city, that I became familiar with a tall, stately woman who would change the landscape of the community forever.
Caroline Schumann Mark.
Caroline could be unassuming, but she was compassionate, powerful, a force of nature, a force for good. She was the widow at the end of the street, and we frequently enjoyed her company for cocktails with mutual friends, now gone. There, perched above the twinkling lights of the city in little jewel boxes, we'd talk about times past, people past, ice in cocktail glasses on crocheted coasters, little bowls of nuts. Deer grazed beneath picture windows. Spring gave way to fall.
Sadly, Caroline is also now gone. But her legacy in the community is permanent.
Caroline Schumann Mark was born to Florence Ford Schumann and John J. Schumann, Jr. of Montclair, New Jersey. Her father was president of General Motors Acceptance Corporation, and her mother's father was one of the founders of IBM. Together, her parents formed The Florence and John J. Schumann Foundation (now the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy), whose primary stated purpose is to renew the democratic process through cooperative acts of citizenship. One of the directors of that foundation has been journalist Bill Moyers, who has served as its President. Caroline graduated from The Madeira School for Girls in Maclean, Virginia, in 1936.
Like her parents, Caroline's legacy is one of committed philanthrophy, unparalleled in the community. Along with her late husband, William (Bill) Mark, they worked tirelessly for the local Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club, and countless other organizations in Wausau and elsewhere. The Wausau Conservatory of Music, the Performing Arts Foundation, and the Community Foundation were all enriched by her generosity. There's a Caroline S. Mark Recital Hall at the Conservatory, a Caroline S. Mark Gallery of Art at the Grand Theater, and a Caroline S. Mark Center for Students with Disabilities at Northcentral Technical College.
In the shadow of Rib Mountain, at the confluence of rivers, a community will never be the same because of one woman, whose name is literally everywhere, and whose memory, hopefully, will never be forgotten.
Caroline Schumann Mark, 1918-2002.
(Special thanks to the Wausau Daily Herald for the Caroline Mark photograph.)