WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — We continue to honor and recognize the remarkable women that make our Texoma community one-of-a-kind.
In the second installment, Carney Porter shines a light on Mary Ferguson, who has spent many years shining her bright light on countless programs, in the arts and culture community.
Who is Mary Ferguson?
“I think if you asked my friends or my family, they would say number one I’m a Yankee, don’t hold that against me. Not from this area,” Remarkable Women nominee Mary Ferguson said.
She may have grown up in the north, but Mary Ferguson has found her southern roots, especially in the Wichita Falls community, where she has dedicated herself to a variety of organizations. Something longtime friend Mary Cluley says she’s truly in awe of.
“She joined the junior league, she ended up being president of that, she joined the women’s forum, she was president of that, the carousel club, president of that,” a longtime friend of Mary Ferguson, Mary Cluley said.
While maintaining her philanthropic endeavors, Mary raised two daughters with her husband, john. Once they grew up and moved out of the house, the couple went through the empty nester’s phase, but that didn’t last for too long.
“We started opening our home to the junior hockey players and they’re just so fun, I mean to have young people in your house when you’re in your 50s and now 60s, they keep you young, they’re fun, the house is full of energy, we just loved it,” Ferguson said.
“They just moved into her house. Can you imagine three to four teenagers in your house for the school year? She was their mom while they were here, most of them were from up north, and that is incredible in itself,” Cluley said.
Mary and John have now taken their enthusiasm to help young people to Sheppard Air Force Base, helping to acclimate those who come from a different country and culture while also getting to keep that same youthful energy alive that she had grown to love.
“Now we’re very involved with the Italian community at Sheppard Air Force base and have the students to our home, and kind of introduce them to Texas culture,” Ferguson said.
“They are the go-to people for the pilots that come in. They try to make them feel welcome, make their families feel welcome, they’re involved in all the events out there that the Italian pilots are involved in,” Cluley said.
While she continued to make a lasting impact to those in the Sheppard and sports community, she maintained her positions on the various boards she served, many of which focused on arts and culture. One always held a special place in her heart.
“We’ve always been really, really involved with the ballet theatre, and I think that probably is the work I’m most proud of,” Ferguson said.
In 2013, Mary served as the vice president of the Wichita Falls ballet theatre. A time when the ballet went through an immense amount of unforeseen struggles.
“When the former artistic director was retiring, unexpectedly, the ballet was going to go away and there were several of us that said this community needs the ballet theatre,” Ferguson said.
In the height of this crisis, Mary hired artistic directors Mishic and Valentine Liberatore and while settling into their new roles, they discovered the complexities of rebuilding a foundation from scratch,
“There was no money in the bank account, they had no studios, no money in the bank account, they just had a board and a bunch of really, really sad dancers that didn’t want to see the ballet leave,” Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre Executive Director Liberatore said.
Liberatore says thanks to Mary’s passion for the ballet, they were able to find solid ground during this pivotal time,
“She was vice president and then president for two years and those two years were really instrumental. She helped us get organized and get policies and procedures and things that the ballet theatre really hadn’t had in place for many years prior, we now have in place because she put the right people at the right time in the right positions to help us to create what we are now ten years later,” Liberator said.
And it’s because of that determination that the Wichita Falls ballet theatre is now celebrating a milestone, 60 years in the making.
“I think you’ve got to have some grace when you do this work, hopefully, I have shown that, to some degree. And making a difference in the community,” Ferguson said.
While she may be enjoying retirement or what she calls her puttering phase of life, Mary says she will never stop being an advocate for the arts and culture community.