The Kansas Paraguay Partners (KPP) has lost a great friend and a great symbol of what the international partnership is all about, i.e., genuine caring and respect for people of all cultures and circumstances. Marianna was a gracious woman who lived through the early days of KPP, serving as president 1978 – 1981. In later years, she served as Membership Chair. Marianna was also influential in establishing an Advisory Council “to capture the experience and statewide connections” of leading citizens.
Over many years, Marianna consistently supported the partnership through financial underwriting and personal involvement. In addition to KPP, she was committed to other international organizations related to children with special needs such as, The Council of the Inter-American Children’s Institute, of the OAS. On some occasions, she was asked to provide consultation to these organizations.
Her extensive connections with business and political leaders helped build strong relationships linking Paraguay and Kansas. Marianna was a supporter of Sister Cities International, leading to a sister city relationship between her home town, Hays, and Santa Maria de Fe in Paraguay. This resulted in her, and husband Ross, helping establish an amazing museum exhibiting the artifacts recovered from the historic Jesuit Missions in Paraguay. In 1975, Marianna was declared an honorary citizen by the city of Santa Maria de Fe. Later she and Ross accompanied K-State President Jon Welfeld and his wife to Paraguay which included a visit to Santa Marie de Fe and meeting with their close Paraguayan friends, Mika and Carlos Mersan.
In 1989 she was named “Kansan of the Year” by the Native Sons and Daughters. In 1996, the Topeka Capital Journal named Marianna “Kansan of Distinction.” In the same year, the KPP Board met in Manhattan at the newly constructed K-State Marianna Kisler Beach Museum of Art. This was also a special time of recognizing Marianna’s long time multiple contributions to KPP. In 2000, Marianna and Ross established an Endowment Trust to be a long term benefit to KPP. Finally, in 2010, Marianna was a major contributor to the newly established KPP Merit Scholarship Fund.
In brief, Marianna, has been a solid link, over many years, in a chain of significant KPP events that could not have happened without her. She will be greatly missed but her legacy of kindness, generosity, and leadership will live on as a model for us all.
Written by Merrill Raber