John “Jack” Katzenmeyer
2020 ROBERT P. BERGMAN PRIZE
photo courtesy Cleveland Institute of Art
For someone who “wasn’t very interested in art as a young man,” according to his wife Mary Ann, the late John “Jack” Katzenmeyer went on to become one of Cleveland’s preeminent arts advocates and supporters for more than six decades.
The Akron native who died on December 1, 2019 at 80 worked as an accountant for Ernest & Young his entire career. He and Mary Ann had attended Miami University together and got married on December 16, 1961. They were living in Bay Village when E&Y transferred Jack to run the company’s office in Louisville, Kentucky. Their interest in the arts began to blossom when she befriended a woman at a neighborhood party who volunteered at The J.B. Speed Memorial Museum (Now The Speed Art Museum). She decided to volunteer to help with the Women’s Committee.
The couple became increasingly involved at the museum, where Mary Ann trained to be a docent, and both participated in the annual contemporary art acquisition trip to New York. The two began to collect contemporary art on their own during those trips. “We bought some still lifes because that was always my favorite kind of art,” she recalls. “Initially, we would buy one piece of art a year.”
Eight years later, when E&Y transferred to Washington, DC, to take over the office there, they began to elevate their involvement in the arts. Jack was invited to on the board of the Washington Project for the Arts, and Mary Ann worked as a docent at the prestigious Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Four years later, they transferred back to Cleveland, where E&Y assigned Jack to be partner-in-charge of major clients such as TRW Inc. and Lincoln Electric. At that time, their daughter Diane had graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and their son Andy was at John Carroll University. In 1999, Jack retired at the age of 60, which was E&Y’s mandatory retirement age.
“Jack loved being retired,” Mary Ann says. “He thought retiring at that age made sense, because they worked such long hours, often late at night, and traveled so much when they were young. The other reason was he was interested in so many other things.”
He thoroughly enjoyed his hobbies of baking pies and cookies and making sure the stone pig in their front yard on South Park Boulevard was appropriately appointed with different hats. But most of his time was filled with work for the various boards Jack served on as chairman, president, treasurer or trustee throughout his professional life and far into retirement.
That included more than a 50-year commitment to the Great Lakes Theatre Festival from when it was just getting started at Lakewood Civic Auditorium under Vincent Dowling. “He would leave their financial papers all over my kitchen table constantly,” Mary Ann remembers with a sigh. “Jack even got a friend from E&Y to take over as treasurer while we were gone, and as soon as we returned, he went back on the board.”
“It was interesting since he never cared about Shakespeare or classical theater, but it didn’t matter,” Mary Ann continues. “He just loved being involved with GLTF. He never stopped being involved with them.” That was true for most of the arts organizations he supported.
“When Jack got involved, it wasn’t just to write a check; he committed time, and that was certainly the case with GroundWorks,” assures David Shimotakahara, GroundWorks DanceTheatre, where Katzenmeyer served as Board President from 2003 to 2013 and then as Treasurer. “He was so supportive of me as an artist, and his patronage was extraordinary.” Jack retired from the dance company’s board in 2018, but remained active as Director Emeriti until his death.
After returning to Cleveland, Mary Ann learned about the new Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art that was then in its nascent stages as an organization with a temporary space in a house on Bellflower Road in University Circle. She joined as a docent and attended all of the Monday training meetings at the Galleria. She and Jack both served terms on the board of what later became the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Mary Ann just retired as a volunteer for MOCA.
Jack loved serving on the board of the Shaker Historical Society and the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he co-chaired the fundraising initiative to fund the new school and dormitory buildings. The couple also endowed the Mary Ann and Jack Katzenmeyer Scholarship Fund for CIA.
“Jack was very thorough and responsible, and he’d get enthusiastic about and fully invested in the organizations, he was involved with,” Mary Ann concludes. “It just seemed natural to him.”