Rosemary and Mark Schlachter: 2021 Philanthropists of the Year

Giving is ‘part of who they are’

Rosemary and Mark Schlachter fell in love with the arts at an early age. That shared interest led them to each other – and planted the seed for their philanthropic efforts. 

Philanthropists of the Year: Mark and Rosemary Schlacter
Philanthropists of the Year: Mark and Rosemary Schlacter

Today, they give their time, talents and treasure “in spades,” as one nominator put it, to a long list of arts, education and human services organizations.

“Philanthropy is the best way, as far as I’m concerned, to love other people, help other people, make the world better for other people,” Rosemary said. 

Mark inherited his love of the arts: His family enjoyed performing arts, and his father designed theater sets.

Rosemary’s passion was fueled by McAuley High School teachers who brought in symphony performers and took students to live theater. 

“The arts are like a religion,” she said. “They’re a link to eternity for me.”

While attending Edgecliff College in 1968, she joined Young Friends of the Arts and met one of its founders, arts visionary Irma Lazarus. 

“I always told Irma she was responsible for my whole life,” Rosemary said. Through Young Friends, “I learned fundraising and marketing, met the Cincinnati philanthropic community, met my husband.”

First art, then marriage

That last connection was made at a Friends event at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight – at least, not for Rosemary.

“I didn’t like him,” she recalled. 

But he liked her, so he kept asking her out.

“He always wanted to do weird stuff,” she said. “He took me to silent movies. We went ice skating. We did weird stuff, and he grew on me.”

The two West Side natives celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Thanksgiving. They live in a modern, art-filled Green Township home Mark designed. (It doesn’t look like any other in the neighborhood, they noted). Rosemary describes their four grown children as clever, entertaining and sharing their parents’ affinity for the arts. Those children are now raising a combined total of four “interesting” grandchildren, she said. 

“Except the one who doesn’t speak,” Mark said. Rosemary quipped back: “She’s only five months old; give her some time.” 

Their careers began similarly, in teaching – Mark at Lloyd High School, where he eventually became a librarian; Rosemary at her alma maters of McAuley and Edgecliff. Both also earned master’s degrees from Indiana University (he in library science, she in English). 

Mark went on to a varied artistic career: photographer for high school yearbooks; librarian for Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library; vice president of an ad agency; director of creative services at exhibit builder ADEX International. He spent several years as a freelance photographer so he could “be there to take the kids to school and bring them home.” 

His last job before he “allegedly” retired, as he puts it, was general manager and on-air personality for jazz station WNOP Radio. 

An ‘Ersatz’ history

All the while, he’s kept up with his own art – sculpting and photography. His abstract sculptures are on display locally, including at each campus of Chatfield College, where he’s a longtime board member. You can also see his pieces in three countries and a dozen states.

His recently published book, “Familiar Faces: The People and Places of Indiana’s 93rd County,” was more than 20 years in the making. In it, his photographs depict the people, scenery and 200-year history of Ersatz County – which doesn’t exist. He calls it “Fauxtodocumentary: Fiction presented through photography as fact.”

“If you were a fan of ‘Prairie Home Companion,’ think Lake Wobegon, but maybe with an attitude,” he said.

Rosemary also veered from teaching. In 1980, Young Friends’ founders recruited her to help restart the organization as Enjoy the Arts. (It later merged with ArtsWave.) That launched her fundraising career; she has held noteworthy positions such as assistant vice president for development at Northern Kentucky University and vice president of development at Franciscan Health System of Cincinnati.

They have different reasons for changing paths.

“I’ve just never figured out what I want to be when I grow up,” Mark said.

“In my case, back before women’s lib, women didn’t have a lot of choices,” Rosemary said. “We were teachers, social workers or nurses.

“My experience in Young Friends showed me that I really enjoyed working asking for money,” she added. “My dad always said I was good at the ‘gimmies’ – ‘gimmie gimmie gimmie,’ so I turned that into a career.” 

She still fundraises professionally through her consulting service, 25th Hour, in addition to the many nonprofits she helps fundraise on a volunteer basis.

A long list of organizations

Sue Ellen Stuebing, vice president and chief development officer for lead nominating organization CET/Think TV, couldn’t believe the list of organizations the Schlachters support. They have been donating to CET for 33 years, and Rosemary has been on their Premier Circle Committee for about eight. 

They serve on numerous nonprofit boards and committees. In addition to CET, Rosemary’s include Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Parks Foundation, Cincinnati Ballet, Bayley Place, Northern Kentucky University Foundation, Cincinnati Art Museum Women’s Committee, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Friends of Music Hall, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries and the University of Cincinnati Libraries Dean’s Advisory Committee. For Mark, it’s Chatfield College, Hoxworth Blood Center, Behringer-Crawford Museum, the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati and Art Beyond Boundaries Advisory Committee. They both serve on the Indiana University Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design Dean’s Advisory Council. 

That’s not counting numerous past commitments and additional organizations to which they donate. 

“They give generously monetarily to organizations, but they really take a more holistic approach of getting into an organization with their time and talent,” Stuebing said. “They give of their hearts and themselves, and they become part of the family of the organization. 

“It’s part of who they are as people, which is pretty amazing,” she added.

“Our attraction to supporting the arts organizations is easy to understand,” Mark said. “But really, it’s the people who are interesting. Without the people, you wouldn’t have the arts, either. What’s a play? It’s a story about people.”

“If I only did one thing, then I would miss working with the diversity of people,” Rosemary said. 

Undoubtedly, the organizations they serve would miss them, too.

“I cannot imagine doing my job without (Rosemary’s) support,” said LeAnne Anklan, executive director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, where Rosemary has been on the board for 18 years. “I can’t stress enough the role that she plays in our organization.”

Anklan said the Schlachters offer financial support, sponsoring the chamber’s “A Little Afternoon Musik” series. But Rosemary is also always willing to be “boots on the ground” and help wherever needed. For example, in preparing for the CCO’s 2021 season, Rosemary joined at least 40 Zoom calls with sponsors and funders, Anklan estimated. 

“It’s nice to have a board member who’s that engaged,” she said. “She and Mark, they’re at the concerts, they’re meeting people and they’re supporting the organization. They’re bringing new people to the shows and making connections in the community. It’s beyond opening a checkbook,” she added. “It’s opening a Rolodex and opening their calendars.” 

Making things better

The Schlachters say one reason they give is because they recognize not everyone has the same advantages, and that we all depend on others for help.

“We’re lucky,” Mark said. “We have never had to worry about whether the lights were going to be on when we got home at night or if our kids were going to have a good meal for dinner. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. So we’ll invest the time and energy to make it a little bit better for others.”

“We enjoy giving money away,” Rosemary added. “Material things get old, but philanthropy never gets old. It’s always very gratifying.”

“Rosemary believes … she’s giving someone else an opportunity that they will thank her for,” Mark said. “If you invest in this, you’re going to thank me for getting that chance because you’re going to feel so good, and you’re going to do so much good.”

“I think it’s a gift to people to give them an opportunity to develop generosity of spirit,” Rosemary agreed.

Both Anklan and Stuebing describe the Schlachters as humble.

“They’re so quiet with their philanthropy,” Stuebing said. “Recognition is not important to them. … Their main goal, I think, is to make the Greater Cincinnati region a better place to live, work and play.”

The Schlachters’ thoughts on earning the Philanthropist of the Year award show that humility. 

“We think they’ve hit the bottom of the barrel,” Mark said. 

“They’ve already honored everybody else,” Rosemary agreed. 

Their nominators beg to differ.

“It’s amazing to me that they haven’t been given this award yet,” Anklan said. “They are incredibly deserving.” 

“Their focus on community has elevated so many organizations,” Stuebing said. “We are all fortunate that they call our region home.”

The NPD 2021 Honorees

Philanthropists of the Year: Rosemary & Mark Schlachter

Volunteer of the Year: Debbie Brant

Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising: Suzy Dorward

Organization of the Year: Legacy Foundations of Louis & Louise Nippert

Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy: Mitch Stone (in memoriam)

Innovator of the Year: United Way’s Champions of Change

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