Just before Saturday’s performance of “Hairspray” at Schenectady High School, a woman who has worked for decades behind the scenes was honored for her commitment to the high school’s arts programs.
In front of the “Hairspray” audience, the mayor named Miriam Butzel a patroon, Schenectady’s highest honor.
“This diminutive woman cares deeply about the students who are seven decades or more younger than she and is a wonderful role model for them. Schenectady is so lucky to have Mim’s commitment and personal concern for our students,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said in a news release.
In 1996, Butzel formed the Henry M. Butzel Family Foundation — named in honor of her late husband — to support the arts, including the high school’s Blue Roses Theater Company.
She also offers several scholarships to students pursuing arts.
In addition, the visual arts gallery at the high school is known as the Henry M. Butzel Family Foundation and Miriam Butzel Gallery.
She was born in Detroit and graduated with a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She came to Schenectady when her husband became a Union College professor in biological sciences.
While raising her children here, she was an active member of the Friends of the Schenectady Museum and a volunteer instructor at Hamilton Hill Arts Center.
She also served for 18 years as a member of the Parsons Child and Family Center board of directors, working to create the Early Family Support Center on Bigelow Avenue.
She also worked on the Early Head Start program, and is still an active volunteer.
McCarthy said she deserved to become a patroon because of “her service to Schenectady, to youth and families for many, many years.”
He also named as a patroon his retiring director of operations, William Winkler.
On Friday, Winkler’s last day at City Hall, McCarthy thanked him for coming out of retirement to help run the city.
Winkler came to City Hall in April, 2011, when McCarthy took over for the departing Mayor Brian U. Stratton. McCarthy was still working as an investigator in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office at the time, and needed someone to help him during the day, while he ran the city in the early mornings and late evenings. Legally, he could not receive the mayor’s salary, so he had to keep going to work during the day.
When McCarthy won the election that fall, Winkler stayed on as a professional engineer because the city engineer was retiring and McCarthy needed someone with a PE license to sign plans and complete other official duties.
Seven months later Winkler was finally able to return to “just” being director of operations.
Now, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett will fill Winkler’s shoes, while continuing to oversee the Police and Fire departments.