Mari Hulman George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairwoman of the Board Emeritus, dies at 83
Mari Hulman George, chairwoman of the board emeritus of Hulman & Company and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died Saturday with her family by her side. She was 83.
Hulman George served as IMS chairwoman from 1988 to 2016, but motorsports and the world-renowned racetrack were among the cornerstones of her life since her father, Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., purchased the facility in November 1945 and saved it from almost certain demolition after World War II. She was a pioneer as co-owner of a team that raced at the highest levels of Midwestern auto racing, in the 1950s and 1960s, a rarity for a woman at the time.
She also touched the lives of countless Hoosiers through tireless, generous philanthropic efforts for her entire adult life, with special focus on the arts, health care and, in particular, animal care.
Mary Antonia Hulman was born Dec. 26, 1934, in Evansville, Indiana, the daughter of prominent business magnate Tony Hulman and Mary Fendrich Hulman. “Mari” attended primary and secondary school at St. Benedict in Terre Haute and the Ladywood School in Indianapolis and attended Purdue University.
Hulman George fielded an entry in the Indianapolis 500 in 1962 and 1963, with her husband as the driver. Elmer George finished a career-best 17th in 1962, receiving relief help from Paul Russo and A.J. Foyt.
The speedway served as a platform for some of Hulman George’s tireless philanthropic efforts. She hosted the “Save Arnold” Barbecue to benefit Indiana Special Olympics every May for nearly 25 years, from 1981 through the mid-2000s. The fun event united drivers, racing personalities and media with Indiana Special OIympic athletes in sports demonstrations and other activities. The “Save Arnold” Barbecue raised more than $1 million for Indiana Special Olympics.
Hulman George also created a program through which thousands of Indiana school children visited the Speedway each May on complimentary field trips to learn about the connections between education and motorsports. Those field trips continue to this day.
Racing fans worldwide also knew her as the individual who gave the famous command to start engines for the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 for more than 15 years, from the late 1990s until 2015.
“Mari Hulman George was a leader and an inspiration to so many, not only in motorsports but throughout the state of Indiana and beyond," said longtime racer and racing team owner Roger Penske, who made his greated mark at IMS. "Her vision and guiding hand has been a driving force at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and her love of motorsports, along with her compassion for everyone associated with racing, was unrivaled. We will all miss her leadership and her spirit. Our thoughts are with the Hulman George family.”
IMS prospered and evolved into a new era during Hulman George's tenure as chairwoman of the board. During that 28-year span, the Indianapolis 500 grew to unprecedented worldwide popularity. The facility also expanded its annual schedule beyond the Month of May to include the Brickyard 400 for the NASCAR Cup Series, the United States Grand Prix for the FIA Formula One World Championship and the Red Bull Indianapolis GP for the FIM MotoGP World Championship.
Hulman George is survived by three daughters, Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi George-Conforti; a son, Anton H. “Tony” George; a stepdaughter, Carolyn Coffey; seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and her longtime companion, Guy Trollinger. She was predeceased by her husband, Elmer, and a stepson, Joseph George. Funeral arrangements are pending with Callahan & Hughes Funeral Home in Terre Haute.
Racing is filled with passionate people, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate than Mari Hulman George. She did so much for motorsports and her community. My heart goes out to the entire Hulman-George family. https://t.co/eWBT492nPl— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) November 3, 2018
So sad to hear that Mari Hulman George has passed. It marks the end of an era that so many of us are grateful to have been part of. #RIPBelovedMari— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) November 3, 2018
It is with deep sorrow that we learned of the passing of Mari Hulman-George. The Hulman-George and Foyt families have been very close for decades as their friendship went well beyond racing. They spent many holidays and family vacations together... pic.twitter.com/FMNK956Ew5— AJ Foyt Racing (@AJFoytRacing) November 3, 2018