By Martha StoelTing
Those attending Oakwood Foundation Chautauqua-Wawasee events recently may have noticed the personable and industrious gentleman helping with the activity. He is Mark Knecht.
Not only is he the new head honcho of the organization, he has a long relationship with this area.
Since his retirement in 2018, he and his wife Joan have moved to their Oakwood Park Resort cottage full time. Since 1954, when his grandmother, who lived in Mentone, bought a cottage in Oakwood Park, he has been spending part of each summer there. Now it has become a permanent home.
Loving Oakwood Park so much, Knecht bought his first cottage there after graduating from what is now the University of Indianapolis in 1973. He grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where his father was a minister and president of United Theological Seminary and his mother was a homemaker and high school teacher.
His career was spent in the software industry with both small and large companies. While living in the Washington, D.C., area, he sold software to the U.S. Department of Defense for the past 10 years.
In his position with Chautauqua-Wawasee, he plans the programming for each year. The current goal is at least one event every month. Knecht started volunteering for the Oakwood Fine Art Fair in 2018 sponsored by Chautauqua and his involvement grew from there.
He noted, “Our biggest programs for 2020 will be the Purdue Varsity Glee Club performance Friday, April 24; Oakwood Fine Art Fair, Saturday, June 13; Fort Wayne Philharmonic Pops Concert, Sunday, June 28; and a repeat of the Old Fashioned Christmas, Saturday, Nov. 28.”
Funding for the organization comes from Harkless Foundation, Kosciusko County Community Foundation, K-21 Foundation and individual gifts from area residents. This allows many Chautauqua programs to be free of charge.
Knecht is happy Chautauqua has been able to work with other local non-profit groups to present programs for the public, particularly those who are retired. These have included the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, Syracuse Public Library, Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Syracuse-Wawasee Garden Club and Parkview Warsaw YMCA.
Another passion of Knecht’s locally is to build technology-software jobs in Syracuse and Kosciusko County. “It is a work in progress,” he commented. To do this he volunteers with SCORE, an organization than mentors entrepreneurial companies. “I continue to work with SCORE and pursue other activities on this goal as a way of giving back,” he added.
“Oakwood Foundation Chautauqua-Wawasee is a non-profit organization that develops, promotes and assists in delivering programs that focus on performing and visual arts, education, recreation and religious activities. It is based on the original Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, which was founded in 1874,” Knecht explained.
He concluded, “We are happy to be at our former summer home all the time and are enjoying getting involved with the community.”