Remembering Marion Etzwiler

Dear friends,

I’m writing to share some sad news: Marion Etzwiler, who led The Minneapolis Foundation from 1984 to 1994, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday. As friends and partners of The Minneapolis Foundation, you may already know how important Marion was to this organization, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on her extraordinary life and contributions to this community.

Marion Etzwiler

Marion Etzwiler

As her obituary in today’s Star Tribune says, Marion was a trailblazer. From her years as a scientist to her work on the founding team of CHART (now WomenVenture) to the ten years she led The Minneapolis Foundation, she served her community with great energy, skill, and vision.

As President, Marion guided The Minneapolis Foundation through a period of tremendous growth. Her decade at the Foundation saw a quadrupling of our assets from $45 million to nearly $200 million. Even more important, that growth was coupled with a dramatic increase in grants to the community. Marion positioned the Foundation to extend its programmatic reach, strengthen its collaborative ties, and enlarge its agenda. Under her leadership, the Foundation helped grow the Minnesota Women’s Foundation and the Nonprofits Assistance Fund in their early years. Her tenure also saw the creation of the Emma B. Howe Memorial Foundation, which has reinvested more than $50 million in the community over the years.

Many of my colleagues here at the Foundation had the opportunity to meet and work with Marion. That’s because, long after she retired, Marion remained very close to the Foundation, attending events and supporting both the organization and those who came after her.

I have known, and deeply admired, Marion for many years, and saw her as a truly lovely human being.  She was also resolute about making this community better, and I certainly knew as Mayor, she was very comfortable making other community leaders uncomfortable in the name of improving the lives of everyone in Minneapolis. Last year over lunch after I took my new job at the Foundation, Marion was predictably gracious but also very clear that she would be watching closely to make sure we lived up to our awesome responsibility to those most in need. On behalf of all of us at The Minneapolis Foundation who are so inspired by your leadership, Marion: We know you are still watching and we promise not to let you down.

In a farewell note when she stepped down as President in 1994, Marion wrote, “Community building is a long-term undertaking that requires tolerance, patience, compassion and—above all—sacrifice. It is not enough that we cheer this effort from the sidelines. This is not work for others—it is the obligation of every person who calls Minneapolis home.”

R.T. Rybak

p.s. In honor of Marion, we are making a contribution of $10,000 to her fund at The Minneapolis Foundation. And to ensure she is always looking over our shoulder, we will rename our front conference room the Marion G. Etzwiler Conference Room.