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Marylou Whitney

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Marylou Whitney

Marylou Whitney
Whitney with husband John Hendrickson
Born Marie Louise Schroeder
(1925-12-24) December 24, 1925
Kansas City, Missouri
Occupation Socialite, philanthropist
Years active 1950s–present
Spouse(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
(1958–92; his death)
John Hendrickson

Marylou Whitney (born Marie Louise Schroeder, December 24, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri) is a philanthropist and a prominent socialite. Whitney has many residences, first and foremost her "Cady Hill" estate in Saratoga Springs New York, a massive camp in the Adirondacks, a farm near Lexington, Kentucky, a winter home in Florida, an apartment in New York City and a residence in Alaska where her current husband is from.


  • Early life 1
  • Horse racing 2
  • Saratoga Springs 3
  • Adirondacks 4
  • New York City 5
  • American Sportscasters Association (ASA) 6
  • Other interests 7
  • Recognitions 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Marylou Whitney with children, 1959

Schroeder married Frank Hosford in 1948, and they had four children: Marion Louise "M'Lou", Frank "Hobbs", Henry "Hank", and Heather. After her divorce, she married Cornelius Vanderbilt "Sonny" Whitney in 1958, and they had one daughter, Cornelia. CV "Sonny" Whitney died in 1992, leaving Marylou with an estate estimated at the time to be $100 million. In October 1997, Marylou married John Hendrickson, a (then) 32-year-old tennis champ and former aide to Governor Walter Joseph Hickel of Alaska. John proposed to Marylou in Buckingham Palace.

Horse racing

C.V. Whitney and his family were a major force in thoroughbred horse racing and have had more stakes winners than any other family in the history of racing in the United States. Whitney dispersed his stock in the 1980s, not wanting to burden his wife with the business. After C.V.'s death, Marylou spent a substantial amount of time and money trying to buy back "Whitney Mares". She purchased Dear Birdie, who proved to be the foundation for "Marylou Whitney Stables". Dear Birdie was named Broodmare of the Year in 2004. She is the dam of Birdstone and champion Bird Town. Marylou Whitney Stables bred, raced and stands Birdstone, the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner. Birdstone produced two classic winners in his first crop: 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and eventual 2009 Three Year Old Champion Summer Bird. No other stallion has sired two classic winners in his first crop since the late 19th century.[1] Whitney also bred and raced champion filly Bird Town, who holds the record for the fastest Kentucky Oaks in history. Whitney is the only woman to breed and race a Kentucky Oaks winner. In 2003, she was honored by the New York Turf Writers with the Ogden Phipps Award (Top Breeder).[2] Whitney was one of the founding members of the The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and was the major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park, where the Marylou Whitney Barn is stationed. She believes in finding retired racehorses new careers and loving homes once their racing careers have ended. Attached to each Jockey Club registration paper of every horse she breeds is a message indicating how to contact her if one of her horses needs a home.[3][4]

Receiving the August Belmont Trophy in 2004 for Birdstone's win in the Belmont Stakes

When her colt Birdstone beat Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes, denying Smarty Jones the Triple Crown, she was apologetic.[5] In 2009, when there was a suggestion that an owner could enter another horse to block the filly Rachel Alexandra from running in the Preakness Stakes, Whitney said that if needed, she would withdraw her own horse to make room for the filly.[6]

Whitney was awarded the Eclipse Award of Merit in 2010, one of the Thoroughbred industry's highest honors.[7][8][9][10]

As Whitney was accepting the Eclipse Award of Merit, she was also honored by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo's mother, Matilda, presented Whitney with a citation proclaiming her officially "the Queen of Saratoga." This was the first citation Governor Cuomo had given.[11]

In 2011, Whitney was elected to the Jockey Club.

Whitney has been instrumental in donating and raising funds for medical institutions. Over $44 million was raised for the building and establishment of the Markey Cancer Center in Lexington. As one of the founders, Whitney has been a fund raiser and has made many television appearances on its behalf.

Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson donated $2.5 million for the Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. The building was dedicated in Lexington, Kentucky, in December 2001 by officials from the University of Kentucky and the McDowell Cancer Foundation.[12] The Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women is 45,465 square feet (4,223.8 m2) and opened in 2002. It provides multidisciplinary ambulatory care for women suffering from breast cancer, gynecologic cancers, and lung, hematologic, gastrointestinal and urologic cancers.[13]

Whitney has co-chaired an annual luncheon in Saratoga to raise funds to battle breast cancer for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The Stroke Recovery Center at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Kentucky is also named in honor of Whitney and Hendrickson for their support of that facility. Whitney was one of the first hosts of the annual Cardinal Hill Telethon and has been involved with the hospital for over forty years.

The Headley-Whitney Museum received funds from Marylou and John for a new wing that is the home to exhibits from the Smithsonian Museum. The Museum is also home of the Cornelia Vanderbilt Whitney Dollhouses and other jewelry owned by Whitney. John Hendrickson funded the new "Marylou Whitney Garden" at the Museum as a replica of one of their personal gardens and presented it as an anniversary gift to Marylou. The Doll Houses have raised over half of a million dollars for charities, and the garden is the setting for many weddings and private parties.[14]

Whitney continues to support Kentucky interests by making significant contributions to organizations such as the Kentucky Aviation Museum and Sayre School. The elementary school is named in honor of Marylou Whitney, and the high school gymnasium is named after C.V. Whitney for their support.

Saratoga Springs

Whitney fell in love with Cady Hill and Saratoga Springs, NY, when C.V. Whitney first brought her there in the late 1950s. Marylou has been instrumental in many philanthropic endeavors to support the town and its residents. As a founder of the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, she helped raise over $1.5 million prior to the 1986 opening. The Hall of Fame is named after Marylou and C.V. Whitney. Marylou has been advocating for the Museum since its inception. She is also supportive of the Saratoga Hospital, where the cardiac catheterization lab is named in her honor. Whitney and her husband John also donated $1 million to the Radiation Onocology Center at the Saratoga Hospital. She was a founder of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and she has helped underwrite the New York City Ballet's summer residency at SPAC. Whitney was awarded the First Star on the Walk of Fame for her timeless efforts. She also supports the Saratoga YMCA, having the newly built pool named in her honor. During the Saratoga Race Meet, she is the Honorary Chair and hosts numerous charities during the season as well.[15] [16]

Whitney suffered a stroke in early 2006, which seriously curtailed her activities in Saratoga during the 2006 meet (late July through early September) when traditionally she is a crucial social figure. She and her husband initiated the Backstretch Appreciation program to benefit backstretch workers who work at Saratoga Race Course. Each night an activity is scheduled for the 2,000 employees such as dinners, bingo, movie, karaoke and a learn English night. Whitney and Hendrickson donate much time and money to this effort.[17][18]

In the mid-1980s, Marylou asked C.V. Whitney that for her birthday he install air conditioning in the Canfield Casino, since she did not want her guests to suffer the heat at her annual ball. Along with the Whitney Gala each year, the building is used for many fundraisers, weddings and other activities that benefit the community.[19] In 2015, Marylou and her husband, John Hendrickson, donated the cost to build Centennial Park in Saratoga Springs as a gift to the City for its 100th Anniversary. [20]


Marylou Whitney is currently the largest private landowner in the state of New York by owning Whitney Park.

Whitney has ties to the Long Lake area in the Adirondacks. Upon CV's death in 1992, Marylou inherited Whitney Industries, a large gravel and lumber business with 51,000 acres (210 km²) of critical Adirondack real estate. With John Hendrickson taking the lead in negotiations, some 14,700 acres (59 km²) were sold to New York State for $17.1 million, after initially seeking rights to develop 40 exclusive shoreline estates on the western stretch of the Whitney Estate. Environmentalists strongly advocated New York State to purchase 14,700 acres. The acquired lands are called the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area.

On July 16, 2007 Marylou and John donated $250,000 to the Long Lake Library, a gift of five times the library's operating budget. In celebration of the gift, the library will be renamed The Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Long Lake Library. The Marylou Whitney Medical Complex in Long Lake, New York, was also dedicated in her honor for her devotion to their needs. She is also a supporter of the Long Lake United Methodist Church.

New York City

In New York City, Whitney was one of the first supporters and largest underwriters of the USO. She was honored as USO Woman of the Year for her financial support and her support during World War II at which time she hosted a radio show called "Private Smiles". The show aired around the world from Kansas City. Her show was reported to have a better rating than her dear friend, Walter Cronkite.

In a nod to Marylou's radio persona, husband Sonny later named a race horse "Pvt Smiles". Pvt Smiles competed against Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes[21]

American Sportscasters Association (ASA)

Whitney, a current ASA member, served as Honorary Dinner Chairman of the American Sportscasters Association's eighth annual Hall of Fame Dinner (December 3, 1992) and their ninth annual dinner (December 2, 1993). Both events were held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

In 1992, Whitney served alongside Michael J. Roarty, former Vice President of Marketing for Anheuser Busch (General Chairman); Senator Jack Kemp (Honorary Co-Chairman); Senator Bill Bradley (Honorary Co-Chairman); ASA President Lou Schwartz (Dinner Chairman); and former boxing champ Jose Torres (Journal Chairman). The Master of Ceremonies for the event was veteran talk show host Larry King.

The honorees included: Vin Scully (Hall of Fame Inductee); Bob Costas (Sportscaster of the Year Award); Bud Greenspan (Graham McNamee Award); Arthur Ashe (Sports Legend Award); and John Madden (Sports Personality of the Year).

There was also a tribute to the "Voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers" Red Barber, who died that year, by former broadcasting partners Mel Allen and Vin Scully.

In 1993, Whitney once again served as Dinner Chairman along with Mike Roarty (General Chairman), and Lou Schwartz (Dinner Chairman). ABC’s Robin Roberts was the evening’s Introductions Host, ASA Chairman Dick Enberg served as Host, and ASA Board of Director Jon Miller was the Master of Ceremonies.

The honorees included: Howard Cosell (Hall of Fame Inductee); Marty Glickman (Hall of Fame Inductee); Bob Costas (Sportscaster of the Year Award); Merle Harmon (Graham McNamee Award); and A.J. Foyt (Sports Legend Award).

The ASA also gave out a special "Upset of the Year" Award to recognize the stunning victory of racehorse Lil E. Tee, a 17 to 1 longshot that won the Kentucky Derby that year. Whitney, along with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse, made the presentation to David Downs, who was Vice President of Sports Programming at ABC Sports at the time, for their live coverage of the event.

Some of the celebrity guests at the events included: New York Yankees great Yogi Berra, sportscasting legend Curt Gowdy; WWE President Vince McMahon; former Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda; "Voice of Boxing" Don Dunphy; Metropolitan Opera singer Robert Merrill; NBA Commissioner David Stern; former President of NBC Sports Dick Ebersol; Boston Celtics play-by-play announcer Tommy Heinsohn; former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca; world-renowned artist LeRoy Neiman; NBC Sportscasters Don Criqui and Charlie Jones; Rachel Robinson, wife of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson; former Miss America and actress Mary Ann Mobley; founder of the Guardian Angels Curtis Sliwa and many others.

Other interests

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, is important to Whitney, and she supports The Whitney Gallery of Western Art. She has given over $1 million to the Museum since C.V. Whitney's death to continue to expand the Museum that he initially built.[22]

The St. Augustine area in Florida is also of interest to Whitney, as C.V. Whitney founded Marineland, and she continues to financially support The Whiney/Hendrickson Marine Lab in honor of her late husband.[23]

In addition to her devotion to many organizations, Whitney enjoys many other activities. She is an active spectator of polo and presented the Whitney Cup to Prince Charles and Geoffrey Kent's Polo Team at Cirincester on June 24, 1990. She continues to present the Whitney Cup at Whitney Field in Saratoga Springs each year.[24]

Whitney was the largest private donor to the 1980 Olympic Games held in Lake Placid.

Whitney is also an adventurer. She led an expedition with Norman Vaughan to the South Pole in 1995. At that time, Colonel Vaughan was the only man alive who was on Admiral Byrd's first expedition to the south pole. His wish was to return there on his 90th birthday. They spent three and one half weeks in the Antarctic pitching their small tents each night under grueling conditions before reaching the South Pole. The United States Military at the South Pole Base gave them the American flag that was flying over the South Pole for their planned excursion to the North Pole several months later. They flew that flag over the North Pole with frostbitten fingers and polar bears headed toward them. It made history as the first time the same United States flag was flown over both poles, and the first time a female had ever accomplished both expeditions within a four-month period. Whitney said that she will never regret having the adventure, although her fingers were numb and black upon her return home.

Whitney also has an interest in dog sled racing. She has flown from Anchorage to Nome monitoring her dogs and her sponsored musher, Martin Buser, along the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race numerous times. She was has been known to rough it with the other spectators and enjoys the dogs and the people.


In 2010 a specially bred, long-stem pink tea rose, hybridized by Canadian rose breeder Brad Jalbert,[25] was named in Whitney's honor. A gift for her 85th birthday from her husband John, the "Marylou Whitney Rose" will be the showcase rose in the "Marylou Whitney Rose Garden" at Congress Park near the entrance of the Canefield Casino. File:Marylou Whitney rose.JPG

The Marylou Whitney Rose was also planted in the Yaddo Rose Garden in Saratoga Springs, NY. The gift of the rose was accompanied by a $10,000.00 donation from Mrs. Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson to help with the upkeep of the gardens. [26][27]

The Marylou Whitney Rose

She was awarded in January 2011 an Eclipse Award of Merit for a "lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing."[28] Whitney was one of the founding members of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and was the major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park. She has supported efforts to find retired racehorses new careers once their racing days have concluded. Attached to each Jockey Club registration paper of every horse she breeds is a message indicating how to contact her if one of her horses needs a home.[28]

Churchill Downs in Kentucky honored her as "First Lady of the Oaks" in 2015 for her dedication to such causes as women's health, equine well being and philanthropic endeavors that benefit the racing community.[29]


  1. ^ "Birdstone: Grindstone — Dear Birdie, by Storm Bird". Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  2. ^ "New York Turf Writers Honor Mineshaft". 2004-06-09. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  3. ^ "Half brother to Birdstone and Bird Town rescued from slaughter". Thoroughbred Times. 2004-09-15. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  4. ^ Hovdey, Jay (2009-06-10). "Endgame often depends on luck". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  5. ^ "Birdstone - 2004 Belmont winner". Horse Hats. 2004. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  6. ^ "Rachel Alexandra | Women's Voices For Change". 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  7. ^ "What's Going On Here | Twin Pillars By Evan Hammonds | Blog Stable". Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  8. ^ Paulick, Ray (2011-01-18). "Let's Come Together: Horse Racing's Circle of Life". Paulick Report. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  9. ^ Paulick Report Staff (2011-01-17). "Transcript of Marylou Whitney's Eclipse Awards acceptance speech". Paulick Report. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  10. ^ "40th Eclipse Awards: Marylou Whitney". YouTube. 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  11. ^ Rees, Jennie (2011-01-17). "Marylou gets Eclipse — and a New York proclamation". Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  12. ^ McArthur, Maureen (2001-12-08). "McDowell Cancer Foundation Holds Official Dedication for the Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women". University of Kentucky. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ "Agency — Headley-Whitney Museum". 2011-06-19. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  15. ^ "Marylou Whitney gets a star". Schenectady: Daily Gazette. 2010-07-18. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  16. ^ News, Breaking News and More: The Saratogian
  17. ^ Post, Paul (2010-06-28). "Summer of entertainment planned for backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course". The Saratogian. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  18. ^ Paulick, Ray (2006-08-08). "Queen of Saratoga". Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  19. ^ Drape, Joe (2006-08-04). "Saratoga’s Grand Dame Must Forgo Big Night Out". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  20. ^ "Centennial Park officially opens in Saratoga Springs". Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  21. ^ Tower, Whitney (1973-06-18). "Secretariat is 50 feet from the finish line and the race".  
  22. ^ Happy Birthday Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney! - Buffalo Bill Center of the West
  23. ^ "Whitney Labs: The promise of basic research, the basis for discovery...". Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  24. ^ "What's Happening". Saratoga Polo Association. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  25. ^ Marylou Whitney Rose - Notable Namings - Select Roses
  26. ^
  27. ^ "The Marylou Whitney Rose unveiled". The Saratogian. 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  28. ^ a b "Eclipse Award of Merit to Marylou Whitney". 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  29. ^ "Whitney Honored as First Lady of the Oaks". Retrieved 2015-10-29. 

External links

  • August 24, 1998, New York Magazine article on Marylou Whitney.
  • 2010 Marylou Whitney Rose
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