Fund Continues Educator’s Spirit:
“What’s In It For The Kids?”

Reprinted from Good News, Fall 2001

Mary Ann Wietzel “What’s in it for the kids?” That’s a question Mary Ann Wietzel, an educator and principal for 34 years, always asked before embarking upon any educational project. If the answer was that her students would have a hands-on, memorable experience that would make a positive difference in their lives, then Wietzel would proceed with enthusiasm.

During a recent field trip, Jackie Martin, a fourth-grade teacher at Helke Elementary where Wietzel served as principal, encountered a former student of Wietzel. “Now a college student studying water-quality management, this young man was inspired by the studies he’d done under Mary Ann’s leadership,” Martin said. “He never forgot her influences, and it has contributed positively to his education and career choices.”

Following her death from cancer on June 23, 2000, Wietzel left behind a legacy of deeply caring about kids and of putting that attitude into action. Her legacy will live on through the Mary Ann Wietzel “What’s In It For The Kids?” Fund.

Administered by the Vandalia-Butler Foundation, a component fund group of The Dayton Foundation, the fund is an endowment that will award annual grants to support programs that fit Wietzel’s kid-involved spirit. Wietzel was well known for her programs, including environmental water studies, a school-wide science center, an aquarium-based fish study and puppet shows that emphasized community-based themes.

She often wrote grants to purchase rabbits and other animals so the children could study the creatures in person, making what they learned in books come alive in the classroom.

“She loved working one-on-one with the students in the science center,” Martin said. “She would help them to use microscopes or study animal tracks. Many parents commented about how [her] whole [educational] process really opened up their children for the first time, both academically and creatively.”

As a memorial to Wietzel, students at Helke Elementary drew pictures with the theme of earth, sea and sky, to be used in creating five stained-glass windows that now surround the school’s front doors.

“Even first-grade students, who only knew her for a month or so, contributed drawings,” said Dan Mecoli, principal of Helke Elementary School. “She could manage hundreds of children and still know individuals, making time to tend to a child’s hurt knee or bruised feeling.”

Zafar Rizvi, vice president of Rex Stores Corporation and a parent of one of Wietzel’s students, provided the initial contribution that helped establish the fund.

“When we were looking for a school for my son, we went to several private schools. Then we went to see Helke Elementary,” Rizvi recalled. “Meeting Mary Ann – seeing her leadership qualities, her positive attitude, how she interacted with kids – made us decide on Helke. Physically she wasn’t tall... but [to my mind] she stood very high.”

Impact Update

Thanks to contributions from parents and friends of Helke Elementary, where she served as principal, Mary Ann Wietzel’s legacy will live on through her fund. Administered by the Vandalia-Butler Foundation, the fund has awarded $4,700 in grants to date to support Wietzel’s desire for youth-centered educational programs, including hosting two Authors in Residence and a visit from the staff and animals at the Columbus Zoo.

Learn about our charitable funds that help you make a difference in the lives of others.

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File date: 12.06.22


Charles Simms

“You get a good feeling giving to the community through The Dayton Foundation and knowing that you're inspiring future generations.”
– Charles Simms, CEO of Simms Management Corporation and Dayton Foundation Endowment fund donor

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