By Janelle Gelfand
Reprinted with permission of The Cincinnati Enquirer
Dr. Benjamin and Marian Schuster were two of the driving forces behind the performing arts center which bears their name. The Schusters donated $8 million toward the new arts center.
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.
Dr. 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.
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.
Dr. 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.
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 – this is an important facet of life. Culture should thrive.
Mrs. Schuster: 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 else’s work; you have to do what you think is right, and hopefully it stimulates a few people.
“Dr. Schuster’s legacy and leadership will have long term impact in the Miami Valley and especially within the Arts community,” said Ken Neufeld, President & CEO of Victoria Theatre Association and The Arts Center Foundation. “Always with a smile and an encouraging word, Dr. Schuster helped make it possible for hundreds of thousands of Miami Valley citizens to experience world-class performing arts events that would not have been possible without the state-of-the art facility that bears his and his late wife Marian’s name. For me, Dr. Schuster was the epitome of a great Trustee – he was generous, encouraging, and supportive. He pushed everyone to succeed at the highest levels – because that was the level of success he demanded of himself. We have all lost a friend, a mentor, and above all an arts patron in the truest sense of the word.”
From extremely humble beginnings in Wisconsin, Dr. Benjamin Schuster and his beloved wife Marian became two of Dayton’s most treasured humanitarians. A generous and gracious man, Dr. Schuster possessed a vision of a Dayton with a flourishing arts community and he lived to see it happen. Through his love of the arts, dedication to the community and generosity of spirit, Dr. Schuster laid a foundation of support and trust by making the lead gift to establish a world-class performing arts center in downtown Dayton, a gift that gave birth to the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center. The Schuster Center celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013 and continues its namesake’s legacy of service, community and commitment to the Arts.
Marian Schuster was an exceptional woman with a heart dedicated to her family and to this community. She and Dr. Schuster have provided an incredible legacy to the arts community. All of us will always remember her with gratitude and admiration. She took great pride in her family and was a woman of stature, a woman who knew what was important in life, a woman of grace and beauty. She will be greatly missed.