Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist
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 the age of 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 the age of 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 34 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 providing 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 assets 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.
The Research Studio
Mary Louise Curtis Bok blessed Andre Smith with the partnership and patronage enabling him to establish an artist's colony known as The Research Studio (now The Maitland Art Center) North of Orlando in the town of Maitland, FL. Smith met Mrs. Bok through a mutual friend, the stage actress Annie Russell, with whom he had worked in summer theater in Connecticut. Mrs. Bok had already served Miss Russell as a patron, funding the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College in Winter Park.
Mrs. Bok, in addition to her other philanthropic pursuits, funded Smith's artist colony, which they named The Research Studio. Built between 1934 and 1937 (with additional construction in the 1940s), the Research Studio was dedicated to what Smith inscribed in one of the couryards: "The artist's job is to explore, to announce new visions, and to open new doors." At the time of its opening (the first artists arrived in 1938, coinciding with an inaugural exhibition in the gallery space), it was one of the few art galleries in the state of Florida. Among the nationally prominent artists who lived and worked at the studio were Milton Avery, Ralston Crawford, Ernest D. Roth, Arnold Blanch, Doris Lee, Hal McIntosh, and many others.
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.
- Friedrich, Otto. Decline and Fall. Harper and Row, 1970, p. 475
- Bok, Edward W. (1920) The Americanization of Edward Bok. The Lakeside Classics edition, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago, pp. 149, 199-200.
- Damon-Moore, Helen (1994) Magazines for the millions: gender and commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post, State University of New York Press, p. 18.
- Damon-Moore, Helen (1994) Magazines for the millions: gender and commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post, State University of New York Press, pp. 74, 79.
- Friedrich, Otto. Decline and Fall. Harper and Row, 1970, p. 126.
- Stoddard, Maynard Good (1 January 2000). "A Legacy of Music. The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia". The Saturday Evening Post.
- Anonymous. "The History of Settlement Music School". Retrieved 11 May 2009.
- Anonymous. In Philadelphia, Time magazine, June 13, 1927.
- Friedrich, Otto. Decline and Fall. Harper and Row, 1970, p. 276.