When she retired in 2003, Maryo Gard Ewell ’70 didn’t actually plan to slow down. No golf, either. Instead, she’s continued to champion the same cause she first tackled decades ago: improving communities by strengthening the nonprofits that serve them.
Ewell says that goal sprang directly out of her time at Bryn Mawr, where ethics infused everything from discussions of the Vietnam War to the College’s academic honor system. “My career happens to be in arts administration, but really it’s about ethical service to a community,” she says. “That’s been a driving force of my entire life since college.”
A few years out of school, she began working for the Westport-Westin Arts Council in Connecticut. From the early 1980s through 2003, Ewell held multiple leadership positions in the Colorado Council on the Arts, and after she “retired,” she became a contract employee at Colorado Creative Industries.
Now as the director of community impact for the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, Ewell helps local nonprofits secure grants both from the foundation itself and sources outside of it. But it goes beyond money. She’s also built a nonprofit management resource library, runs numerous workshops, and helps counsel local nonprofit leaders. Drawing on her arts background, Ewell encourages all nonprofits to think creatively and see beyond their basic missions.
A community theater can put on a play about issues that affect local residents, sparking serious discussion; a small museum can commit to offering better pay and benefits for its employees, building up the local workforce.
She credits her father with modeling a passion for this type of work. He was a community arts developer and, incredibly, received the Governor’s Award for Creativity in Wisconsin 50 years before his daughter won the Governor’s Award for Creative Leadership in Colorado last year. “As we’re redefining society right now, which I believe we are, my personal belief is that this is the moment when nonprofits really could take their rightful place at the helm,” Ewell says.