IMS Chairman of the Board Emeritus Mari Hulman George dies at 83
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Hulman & Company and Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the passing of Mari Hulman George, Chairman of the Board Emeritus, who touched the lives of millions through her deep passion for auto racing, stewardship of the Racing Capital of the World and decades of compassionate philanthropy.
Mari Hulman George, 83, passed with her family by her side early Nov. 3 in Indianapolis.
Many race fans may know George from her years of leadership at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she served as chairman from 1988-2016 and grew the prosperity of the world-renown racetrack. During her tenure as chairman, the Indianapolis 500 underwent worldwide growth in popularity. The speedway expanded its annual schedule beyond just may as well 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.
George also oversaw significant capital improvements to the IMS, such as the construction of the new Pagoda control tower, an infield road course that included parts of the famous 2.5-mile oval, new pit-side garages and various safety improvements.
IMS and INDYCAR also led development of one of the greatest safety innovations in motorsports history – the energy-absorbing SAFER barrier – during George’s tenure as chairman. The barrier system was first installed in 2002 at IMS and soon was adopted at nearly every major oval track in North America and many road courses worldwide.
But George didn’t just improve IMS, she improved lives around her as well. The Speedway served as a platform for George’s tireless philanthropic efforts. She hosted the “Save Arnold” Barbecue to benefit Indiana Special Olympics every May for nearly 25 years. The event united drivers, racing personalities and media with Indiana Special Olympic athletes in sports demonstrations and other activities.
The “Save Arnold” Barbecue raised more than $1 million for Indiana Special Olympics.
George also created a program which thousands of Indiana school children visited the Speedway each May on complimentary field trips to learn about the connections between education and motorsports. Trips which continue to this day.
George was devoted to arts and education, a trustee at Rose-Hulman Institute for Technology and a large contributor to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana State University, Purdue University, Indiana University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
George was also a leading charitable force to benefit animal care, especially for horses and greyhounds, two of her greatest passions.
Due to these and many other charitable works, along with her contributions to IMS and motorsports, George was inducted into the IMS Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2015.
“Our mother was such a unique, wonderful person,” said Anton H. George, current Chairman of the Board at IMS. “She loved her family, friends, auto racing and animals with equal passion. She was a quiet pioneer in so many ways, from owning a race team in the 1950s and 1960s to overseeing a period of tremendous growth and evolution while chairman of the board at IMS. She was known by millions as the woman who gave the command to start engines for the Indianapolis 500 and other events at the Speedway, but her true legacy will be the generous and kind philanthropy she learned from her parents. That compassion and desire to help people and animals every day are the true hallmarks of her incredible life. We love her deeply and will miss her every day, while ensuring that her spirit and generosity live forever at IMS.”
Her loss’s impact extends behind just her family, and the racing world, with the president of IMS and the president and CEO of Hulman & Company releasing the following statements:
“Mari Hulman George was one of the nicest, most gentle people you would ever meet, but she also was an incredibly influential leader in American motorsports and the state of Indiana for the last 60 years. She combined a true passion for auto racing with a common, human touch toward all, especially drivers and fans. Generations of Hoosiers have benefited from her tireless charitable work, and her commitment to animal care is exemplary and a mirror of her kindness. We extend our sincere condolences to the entire Hulman-George family and will miss her greatly.”
– Mark D. Miles, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hulman & Company
“The Hulman family’s legacy will be felt for generations across Indiana. And, Mari Hulman George’s continuation of the family’s community leadership, giving spirit and compassion defines well the family and its Hoosier heritage. Mrs. George was committed to the long-term health of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a treasured Indiana asset, and her stewardship as chairman set the tone for staff and others involved with IMS. We were most impacted by her charitable heart and dedication to causes and organizations that made a difference to our community. While she will be missed deeply by fans, staff, friends and family, her presence and impact will be felt at IMS and across Indiana for years to come.”
– J. Douglas Boles, President, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
George leaves behind 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.
Drivers, motorsports mainstays, prominent Indianapolis figures and more have begun outpouring their own sympathy and appreciation to the late Indianapolis racing industry legend.