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April 10, 1998

IMS Chariman Emeritus Mary Fendrich Hulman Passes Away at 93

Mary Fendrich Hulman
Mary Fendrich Hulman
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mary Fendrich Hulman, chairman emeritus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, died at 6:29 a.m. April 10 at her home in Indianapolis. She was 93.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Mrs. Hulman's grandson, Anton "Tony" Hulman George, is the president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation and founder of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Her daughter, Mari Hulman George, is chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. Anton "Tony" Hulman Jr., Mrs. Hulman's late husband, purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945. Anton Hulman died in 1977, and Mrs. Hulman became chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. She was succeeded by her daughter in 1988.

Mary Fendrich Hulman was born March 13, 1905 in Evansville, Ind., the only child of John H. and Nettie Buttriss Fendrich. Mrs. Hulman's father's principal business was the LaFendrich Cigar Company founded in 1833 by her grandfather, Hermann Fendrich, who came to this country from Germany.

After attending elementary parochial schools in Evansville, Mrs. Hulman graduated from the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Academy near Terre Haute, Ind., in 1923 and from Georgetown Visitation Convent Junior College in Washington, D.C. in 1925.

It was during her term at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Academy that she met her husband, Anton Hulman Jr., Terre Haute businessman and future owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The couple met in Atlantic City, N.J., where both families had summer homes. Following his graduation from Yale University, Mr. Hulman rekindled the relationship, and the couple married Oct. 6, 1926 and sailed to Europe on their honeymoon.

The Hulmans settled in Terre Haute as Anton began expanding the family business, which primarily consisted of Hulman & Company, a Terre Haute-based wholesale grocery firm founded by his grandfather. In 1935, the Hulmans became the parents of their only child, Mari.

Mrs. Hulman pursued her own interests, which included sports and art. As a sportswoman, Mrs. Hulman had been presented with her first set of golf clubs when she was 13. Her interest in golf meshed well with that of her husband, who later became the owner of a golf course when he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Hulmans also contributed the land and improvements for an excellent public course, Hulman Links, to the City of Terre Haute in the early 1970s. Mrs. Hulman also pursued her hobby of skeet shooting, and became an accomplished shot, both at the Fort Harrison Gun Club in Terre Haute, and other competitive venues.

When Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945, Mrs. Hulman had her doubts, but she supported her husband's decision. She had been a frequent attendee of the Memorial Day race with her husband and friends over the years, and she soon took on an active role during the month of May. She was much loved by the drivers and fans for her enthusiastic dedication to the annual event. After her husband died in 1977, Mary Hulman took over the task of saying the most famous words in sports -- "Gentlemen, start your engines" -- at the Indianapolis 500 and later at the first three Brickyard 400 races. The last time she started the two races was in 1996. In 1997, her daughter Mari Hulman George, chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, performed the honors.

Art was Mrs. Hulman's first love, and it was in this area that she displayed her generosity, which was most often a private matter. Mrs. Hulman became a collector of paintings and works of art, owning works by such distinguished artists as Degas, Reynolds and Rayburn.

She served on the Board of Overseers of the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute from 1961-1964 and then was appointed to the Board of Managers of the Museum by the Vigo County Circuit Court Judge. She served in that position until September 1977. She was a major benefactor of the Swope.

Mrs. Hulman also served as a trustee of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and was a member of the Fine Arts Committee. In 1985 the Mary Fendrich Hulman Charitable Trust committed $3.5 million to the museum for a pavilion named after her. The new pavilion added 66,000 square feet to the museum, effectively doubling the facility's exhibition space. It was the largest gift in the history of the trust.

Additional public service included membership on the board of trustees of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and of the development board of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. She was active in the Public Health Nursing Association of Terre Haute and served on many supporting agencies for the benefit of St. Anthony Hospital.

In recognition of Mrs. Hulman's interest in charity and education to the Terre Haute community, both the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College honored her with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Indiana State University presented her with a Doctor of Laws degree. When her husband died in October 1977, Mrs. Hulman took on additional responsibilities, serving as an officer and director of various business interests of her family. She assumed an active role at Hulman & Company, the oldest part of the Hulman empire, and served as chairman. She assumed the position of chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was succeeded by her daughter, Mari Hulman George.

Mrs. Hulman became the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Terre Haute First National Bank, as well as the first woman elected to board of managers of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

She maintained an active role in all of these companies and organizations until the late 1980s as she continued to live in her Terre Haute home on South Sixth Street, where she and her husband had spent their married life. At the time of her death, she resided in Indianapolis.

In addition to her daughter, Mari Hulman George, and her grandson, Anton "Tony" Hulman George, Mrs. Hulman is survived by three granddaughters and five great-grandchildren. Her granddaughters are Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi George. The great-grandchildren are Jessica Gunter, Anton Hulman George Jr., Edward George, Lauren George, Jarrod Krisiloff and Kyle Krisiloff.

Photo courtesy of the IRL

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