Living a life of philanthropy

December 01, 2019 | Stories

Mary Lynn Oliver’s philanthropic track record began long before her days as a founding Board member at the Wichita Foundation. In fact, when she was a little girl, Oliver would transform her backyard into a “circus,” where her and a friend would perform what they called “trapeze acts” as they hung from the jungle gym. They charged admission for these performances, and they donated the collected money to charity.

Oliver may not perform backyard “circus acts” anymore, but her passion for philanthropy still holds strong.

Mary Lynn Oliver is a lifelong Wichitan and wouldn’t have it any other way,

It was WF’s mission to fulfill people’s charitable desires to benefit the whole community that drew her to the Foundation in 1986 – the year of WF’s inception. She served as Board chair from 1993-96, and during that time raised WF’s assets from $4 million to more than $10 million.

She contributed by creating the endowed Beech Memorial Fund and the Philanthropic Leadership Fund, a matching challenge grant in 1993. The establishment of these funds, for the first time, elevated WF’s assets above $5 million. Oliver credits Gene Struckhoff, a “community foundation guru” famous for helping start dozens of community foundations, for the motivation behind her efforts.

“He (Struckhoff) said you have to reach the $5 million mark before you’re sustained, so that became my goal,” said Oliver.

And years later, WF currently manages $118 million. “I never imagined WF would be where it is today, but with the history of community foundations, I guess that was my hope,” said Oliver.

Oliver held a six-year term on the WF Board of Directors which ended in 2019.

“Her dedication to the Foundation, and to philanthropy, is evidenced by the fact that she was still willing to serve on the Board,” said one of the founding members of WF, Fred Berry. “A gracious, humble, but strong, lady. She raised WF to a new level.”

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