Sunday, April 07, 2002

Schusters have ties to Cincinnati

By Janelle Gelfand,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON — Benjamin and Marian Schuster are two of the driving forces behind Dayton's new performing arts center, which bears their name.

        Both have Cincinnati ties: Dr. Schuster, medical director of the Kettering Cardiovascular Institute, is a native of Wisconsin who trained at Cincinnati's General Hospital (now University Hospital).

        Mrs. Schuster, a Cincinnati native, grew up as Marian Mayerson and graduated from Walnut Hills High School. She received degrees from the University of Cincinnati and the College of Music, where she studied piano.

        The Schusters have donated $8 million toward the new arts center. The Enquirer spoke with the couple in the home where they raised three daughters and have lived for 32 years.

        Question: Why did you decide to become involved in this project?

       Dr. Schuster: It was just fortuitous. We've always been interested in the arts; our children went to the National Music Camp at Interlochen (Mich.) for many years, and all played instruments. Marian has a background in music.

        Marian and I just felt it was the right thing to do. I use the term carpe diem, because we just seized the moment.

        Q: Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus have bigger arts scenes. Is Dayton poised for something bigger?

       Mrs. Schuster: Dayton didn't have that draw. But now that we have the hall, we can afford big Broadway shows, which will be an attraction. Also, artists who come to perform will be impressed.

        Our hope and our vision is that with this new performing arts center, it will be the mecca for not only Dayton, but for all the outlying areas to come in, and to have a wonderful weekend.

        Q: Did you have any requests for the design?

       Dr. Schuster: No, but we should give credit to Second and Main Ltd., who were instrumental in spearheading this drive for the performing arts center. They had the wisdom, the sagacity, the drive to put this thing forward. Then they hired a world-class architect.

        Even though our name may appear on the building, the real start appears with this group of people.

        Q: How will it make an impact?

       Mrs. Schuster: The (Dayton Philharmonic) will have a much more intimate setting, and I think people will feel more engrossed in it.

        We feel that this building and the programs they have in it will provide diversity in the city and give people an opportunity to witness the arts.

        Everything in Dayton will be upgraded because of this. That's the big thing we feel is going to happen: the new renaissance.

        Q: Do you feel that you are leaving a legacy?

       Dr. Schuster: We are, in a sense. We leave a legacy long before we die, in how we comport ourselves; how we treat (people); the reflection of our image in the community.

        And if we're lucky enough at the end of life to leave a sizable sum, that's frosting on the cake.

        We were trying to make a statement in the community — which I'm sure the Corbetts (of Cincinnati) did, and the Kimmels (of Philadelphia) did — that this is an important facet of life. Culture should thrive.

        Mrs. Schuster: Instead of investing in the ball team, it's not a bad idea to invest in the arts.

        Music, art, dance — we're surrounded by that in Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis. But Dayton has to do what's right for Dayton. You can't be coveting everybody's else's work; you have to do what you think is right, and hopefully it stimulates a few people.


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