Mary Ann McCabe, a longtime Chautauquan and speech pathologist, lived by the William Butler Yeats quote, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet.”
“She loved to sit on the porch on 14 Simpson, and she would talk and say hi to anyone and everyone who came by,” said her son, Michael McCabe.
The McCabe family has been coming to Chautauqua Institution for more than four decades. McCabe was heavily involved in the Chautauqua Women’s Club and Chautauqua Property Owners Association, while her husband of 58 years, John McCabe, worked with Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. The couple brought their children, who then brought their children, and continued to create memories at the Institution.
McCabe, who passed away on June 23, had a passion for helping people communicate, according to Michael McCabe. He said that as a speech pathologist in Rochester, New York, his mother worked with children who had speech impediments to help them learn how to communicate effectively. McCabe also loved facilitating a better understanding between people of different cultures, which led her to create the International Volunteer Interpreter Program in 1980, among other programs.
She attended Nazareth College and studied speech pathology, where she met Nancy Shadd, former president of the CWC. From there, Shadd said the two worked together in the field for many years in Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, where McCabe helped children with special needs in various school districts.
The two had a long lasting friendship, beginning with their time together in college. Throughout their years at the Institution, Shadd said McCabe was instrumental in her decision to become president of the CWC.
“Honestly, I was always indebted to Mary Ann McCabe because she kept encouraging me to consider applying for the position (of president),” Shadd said. “The Women’s Club was Mary Ann’s total dedication.”
A Chautauquan since 1977, McCabe was always on the grounds learning new things and sharing them with her family, inspiring her children and grandchildren to have an “inquisitive mind,” according to Michael McCabe. Shadd said McCabe had been involved with the CWC since the 1980s, holding a plethora of positions, including interim president from 2004 to 2005.
Like Michael McCabe, Shadd reiterated McCabe’s love for contemporary issues, leading her to work with the Institution to develop the Contemporary Issues Forum in 1992.
“(The CIF) has been the CWC’s landmark contribution to the Chautauqua community,” Shadd said.
The Institution does not have speakers on Saturdays as part of the general programming for the summer, and one of McCabe’s goals through establishing the CIF was to bring a quality speaker to the grounds every Saturday.
The CIF, along with all other aspects of the CWC’s programming, is put together by the program committee. The group works a year in advance to assure there is a speaker each Saturday in the Hall of Philosophy.
Michael McCabe said his mother had a passion for discussing world issues and current events. She recognized a divide between community members and “felt that there had to be more civil dialogue,” he said.
“What always impressed me about my mom was her compassion, ability to listen and to get people talking and dialoguing,” Michael McCabe said. “I think that’s why she cared about the Women’s Club (and) contemporary issues.”
A reception to honor McCabe will take place after the 2 p.m. Contemporary Issues Forum lecture Saturday, August 11, in the Hall of Philosophy.