About Mary Louise Bok-Zimbalist (Curtis)
Mary Louise Curtis Bok (August 6, 1876 in Boston, Massachusetts – January 4, 1970 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), was the founder of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was the only child of the magazine and newspaper magnate, Cyrus Curtis and Louisa Knapp Curtis, the founder and editor of the Ladies Home Journal.
Married Edward Bok
Mary Louise, writing under her mother's maiden name (as Mary L. Knapp), at age thirteen was one of sixteen people on the staff of Ladies' Home Journal in 1890, the first year of Edward W. Bok's long tenure as editor of the magazine. In 1896, at age nineteen she married Bok, who was fourteen years her senior. The couple had two sons, Cary Curtis Bok and William Curtis Bok. Her husband retired from the magazine in 1919 and they spent their winters in Florida, where they built the Bok Tower Gardens near Lake Wales. The marriage of Mary Louise and Edward Bok lasted thirty-four years, ending when Edward died in 1930.
Settlement Music School
Mary Louise became involved with the Settlement Music School at the age of 48. At the time, the school was focused on provided musical training to young immigrants. In 1917, she made a gift to the school of $150,000 for a Settlement Music House. The music house's goal was "Americanization among the foreign population of Philadelphia." A close friend of the Bok family, pianist Josef Hofmann, played a recital at the school's dedication. Today this facility on Queen Street in Philadelphia is known as the Mary Louise Curtis Branch.
Curtis Institute of Music
In 1924 Mary Louise established the Curtis Institute of Music, which she named in honor of her father who also had a great interest in music. After consulting with musician friends, including Josef Hofmann and Leopold Stokowski on how best to help musically gifted young people, Mrs. Bok purchased three mansions on Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and had them joined and renovated. She established a faculty of prominent performing artists and made several gifts to the institute, eventually leaving it with an endowment of $12 million.
She was the chief beneficiary of her father's estate, inheriting assests estimated at $18 to 20 million when he died in 1933. At this time she became the largest shareholder, director and a vice president of Curtis Publishing. She founded the Curtis Hall Arboretum at the family residence in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.
Married Efrem Zimbalist
In 1943, she married the director of the Curtis Institute, violinist Efrem Zimbalist, becoming Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist. Together with one of her sons, Cary Bok, she controlled 32 percent of Curtis Publishing Company through its final turbulent years. She held a seat on the board of directors but reportedly "rarely attended board meetings during these declining years - refusing either to sell the stocks they had held all their lives or to exercise the authority that those stocks gave them." Mrs. Zimbalist finally resigned her seat on the board of directors in 1967, a few years before the final dissolution of Curtis Publishing and her death.
Mary Louise Curtis Bok's Timeline
August 6, 1876
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
July 6, 1943
January 4, 1970
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States