By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Marge Schott didn't have any children of her own, but she adopted the youth of Greater Cincinnati with lavish donations over the years, a generosity that leaves an enduring legacy.
Marge Schott throws out beads at a Covington Mardi Gras event to
benefit homeless children in March 2003. Schott could always be counted
on to give of her time, as well as her money, for charitable causes,
particularly those that helped children.
Tax records reveal that Schott donated millions of dollars to charities that help educate, nurture and provide children with a safe place to play. St. Ursula Academy, the Dan Beard Boy Scout Council, St. Rita School for the Deaf, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families and the Greater Cincinnati Girls and Boys Club: All were beneficiaries of her altruism.
Schott believed in a Catholic education and showed her support at St. Ursula not just by contributing $1.5 million for bricks and mortar - to a 20-classroom facility that bears her name, and a gym and convocation center completed in August - but by sitting in the bleachers, cheering the girls on at pep rallies and sporting events and talking to them about their futures.
"She believes women are confident and intelligent, and I think Marge led the way in that, at least in Cincinnati," principal Frances R. Romweber said recently. "The students see her as a pioneer. What stays with them is that she believes in them."
Molly Slepitza, an 18-year-old senior from Hyde Park, said she remembered Schott coming to some of her volleyball games.
"She was always taking pictures with us," she said. "And she talked to the girls. We definitely appreciated it. She was like our own personal celebrity."
What Schott gave to the girls, she also gave to the boys.
In December 1999, the Dan Beard Boy Scout Council received a $1 million check from Schott, which was used to create a lake at Camp Friedlander on Ibold Road in Clermont County's Miami Township. It was part of a $15 million initiative to turn the property into a full-time Boy Scout camp. Work on all the badges that require sailing, motor-boat, kayak, canoe, fishing, swimming and snorkeling is now done at the lake, said Andy Swallow, director of development and marketing for the council.
Before the restoration, weeklong summer camping trips had to be taken outside the council area. Through her donations, Schott contributed to the scouting activities of participants in seven counties in Northern Kentucky and five in Southwest Ohio.
"When she gave us the check, I remember her saying, "I gave a million for the girls and a million for the boys," Swallow said, referencing the gift to St. Ursula. "It was an extraordinary gift. Mrs. Schott believes in the value of scouting programs."
Swallow said Schott had been on the council's board of directors many times in the past but most recently was an honorary member. She was a frequent visitor, making trips to the camp at least once a year and before that to the family Jamboree at Coney Island.
"She would always stay and sign autographs for as many kids as would line up, no matter how tired she was,'' Swallow said.
Continuing her interest in children, Schott gave $100,000 to the Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education, a predominantly black school, to be used for financially disadvantaged female athletes who wanted to go to college.
She gave the money as Major League Baseball was investigating her use of racial epithets.
"I know she gave the money, because I went with her to the school,'' said Mamie Dunston-Hall, who was president of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women at the time.
Dunston-Hall was criticized for supporting Schott after the Reds' CEO apologized for using racial epithets. Dunston-Hall resigned as president of the group, saying, if we are not able to forgive Schott, then we are as racist as she is.
Unfortunately, the money to CAPE was never used as planned, because the school closed. Through an agreement with the Cincinnati Board of Education, Schott withdrew the $100,000 gift, but allowed the board to use interest accrued from January through September ($3,000 -$4,000) for scholarships.
Allen Howard and Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this report. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
MARGE SCHOTT: 1928-2004 [Special section]
'A woman of the people'
Daugherty: She was a true original
Insensitivity defined reign over Reds - and ended it
Schott gave millions for kids, pet causes
She paid for a world title, then paid for her mistakes
Pioneering businesswoman stood up to General Motors
Timeline: A lifetime of Marge
Reds remember only the best
Parker, Davis remember Marge for good deeds, not bad words
Schott's controversies still reverberate in baseball
Enquirer editorial: Remembering Schott's generosity