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Obituary for Mary Jane Wolbers
Mary Jane Wolbers, 95, of Temple, NH, passed away at her home on Saturday, April 14, 2018. She was born September 15, 1922, in Wilmington, DE, the daughter of John Donald Marr, Sr. and Marian Lee (Hodkin) Marr.
Mary Jane graduated from Appleton Academy in 1939 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from UNH in 1943. She obtained a Master of Science degree in Dance from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1949. Mary Jane was a member of the United Church of Christ. She was a diverse, universal and spiritual supporter of all Protestant faiths and Christians and those of other faiths. Mary Jane was a charter member of the American Dance Therapy Association and the Sacred Dance Guild. Mary Jane is survived by her daughters, Marian Frances Wolbers and her husband, Bruce Dengler, of Reading, PA, and Vivian Rose Wills and her husband, Robert, of Temple, NH; her sons, Charles Paul Wolbers, Jr. and his wife, Donna Hoffman, of South Wayne, WI, and George Ernest Wolbers and his wife, Ellen Estes, of Matthews, NC; her nieces, Debbie Lou and Margaret Ann; her nephews, Don and John Charles; 9 grandchildren; and 8 great-grandchildren. Mary Jane was predeceased by her husband, Charles Paul Wolbers, Sr.; sister Ruth Elizabeth Marr; and her brother, John D. (Jack) Marr, Jr.
Mary Jane (Marr) Wolbers of Temple, New Hampshire, was a dancer, dance educator, choreographer, and dance consultant. On state, national, and international levels, she was a leader in liturgical (sacred) dance, creative dance for children, and dance therapy. She loved music and utilized live musicians for dance classes and performances whenever possible; she was an eloquent speaker and writer, and an avid reader; she valued art and cultural expression in all forms, from pottery to painting, from architecture to fiber arts.
Wolbers was a Professor Emerita of East Stroudsburg University where she served on the faculty as a dance education specialist. She held a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Hampshire, and earned a Master of Science degree in Dance (Physical Education) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first university in the country to offer a dance major, a program spearheaded by dance education pioneer Margaret H’Doubler, one of her most beloved mentors.
In 2008, Wolbers received the prestigious Heritage Award from the National Dance Association in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of dance through education, publications, choreography and performance, theatre and other related arts. She was also honored with a Great Teacher Award from ESU in 1993, and won the Ethel Enke Heritage Award given by the AAHPERD (American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance). In an honor of a literary sort, children’s book author Carolyn Sherwin Bailey drew inspiration from young Mary Jane when creating the character Ann in her Newbery Medal-winning Miss Hickory.
Wolbers’ training included both academic and private dance study with dozens of outstanding artists. Early dance training was with Kate McClafferty in Wilmington, DE (ballet, folk, creative) and Marion Rice in Fitchburg, MA (Denishawn, creative, and ballroom). Her career goals took form in college courses and independent studies with Barbara Mettler, Jan Veen, Miriam Winslow and other New England artists during her undergraduate years at UNH. Here, her life as a liturgical dancer flourished at the Community Church of Durham under the encouragement of the Rev. Emerson Hangen. Wolbers also studied with Jose Limon, Fred Berk, Juana de Laban, Arthur Hall, Harold Kreutzberg, Matteo, Charles Moore, Ralph Page, Pearl Primus, Maya Schade, and Helen Tamiris. She served as a member of the Society of Spiritual Arts, founded by Ruth St. Denis, and the Martha Graham Dance Council.
Wolbers was a member of Orchesis, American Dance Guild, The International Association for Creative Dance, World Dance Alliance, Dance and the Child International, and National Dance Association (an affiliate of AAHPERD). She was a charter member of the American Dance Therapy Association, and a charter member of the Sacred Dance Guild, where Wolbers assumed a pivotal role in the organization’s growth and development as an interdenominational, international organization devoted to dance in religious experience.
Prior to her tenure at East Stroudsburg University, Wolbers was director of Physical Education and Dance at Vermont College and head of the Dance Department at West Virginia University. She also established the dance major curriculum at Jordan College of Butler University where she was Chairperson of the Dance Department.
Wolbers taught, inspired, and mentored ESU dance students from 1963 until her retirement in 1991 and was a passionate advocate of creativity-based programs in dance education. Her ultimate goal as an educator was to develop students who have positive self-image, integrated personalities, and the capacity for enjoying life to the fullest. Her drive to bring a wide range of dancers and their troupes to perform in Pennsylvania resulted in numerous concerts and classes with such visiting masters as Arthur Hall (Afro American Dance Ensemble), Michael and Mary Ann Herman (authorities on international folk dance) and Pilobolus (adventurous, collaborative movement artists).
At ESU, she donated her time, talent and energies to a program of Outreach Services in Dance Education, which continued for more than 25 years and included performance groups such as The Contemporary Dancers of ESU, Orchesis, and the Pocono Chancel Dancers, a sacred dance performing group. An extensive and varied program, Outreach Services responded to community needs and served as a laboratory for University students.
Always active in the local community, she organized high school dance workshops, giving young aspiring dancers a chance to learn from world-renowned performers and envision a future in dance performance and/or dance education. She served as an advisor for the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, and is featured in Women Who Made History in Monroe County. Professor Wolbers was described by the Monroe County Arts Council Directory as "one of the most popular and approachable teachers at East Stroudsburg University . . . a nationally-known dance educator and consultant, with special interests in liturgical dance and dance therapy. Her Saturday morning creative dance classes for children are legendary for involving parents and kids alike. The University dance curriculum and the Contemporary Dancers of ESU owe their inspiration and growth to her."
Wolbers married the late Dr. Charles P. Wolbers, a Professor Emeritus and educator at ESU, and a Tennis Hall of Fame honoree, in 1950. The couple had four children: Charles Jr., George, Marian and Vivian. She was grandmother to nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Interment will be private, a church service will be held on August 3, 2018, at 6pm, at the Cathedral of the Pines, in Ringe, NH.
In lieu of flowers, well-wishers may remember Mary Jane Wolbers by donating to A scholarship at East Stroudsburg University has been established to honor Mary Jane Wolbers.
GIVE ONLINE Make a one-time or recurring credit card gift through ESU’s secure online giving website, http://www.esufoundation.org/wolbersscholarship
MAKE A GIFT BY PHONE OR MAIL - Please make checks payable to the ESU Foundation and include “Mary Jane Wolbers Endowed Scholarship” in the memo section of your check. ESU Foundation The Henry A. Ahnert, Jr. Alumni Center 200 Prospect Street East Stroudsburg, PA 18301 (570) 422-3333