At first glance, high school student Bridget Russell would apparently have little in common with Lisa Roskens, CEO of a real estate and private equity firm.
But the two share this: Both said they wouldn’t be where they are today without the decades-long efforts of a centenarian who died earlier this month.
Ann Mactier, educator, equestrian, and civic leader, was instrumental in founding Phoenix Academy, a school that helps struggling students achieve success. And she and her husband, J. Allan Mactier, founded Ponca Hills Farm, a groundbreaking equestrian center that helped put Omaha on the world horse map.
For Bridget, it was Phoenix Academy. For Roskens, it was the Ponca Hills farm.
Mactier, 100, died Nov. 11 at her home in Omaha. She was predeceased by her husband. Benefits are pending.
A former member of the Omaha Public Schools Board, the Nebraska State Board of Education, and National Education Associations, Mactier is known as a determined advocate for ensuring schools graduate. educated students. A tireless champion of reading, she was known to visit OPS schools to observe the classrooms.
Her daughter Jan Mactier Moriarity said her mother was motivated to found Phoenix Academy after Jan and her two brothers, James and Robert, struggled in school due to dyslexia.
“She believed that if you were taught properly, you could learn anything,” Moriarty said.
Phoenix Academy, now located at 1110 N. 66th St., is a kindergarten-eighth grade school that helps struggling students get back on track and back to their regular school building. It takes a fundamental approach to education.
Russell, a sophomore at Duchesne Academy, says that kind of approach was just what she needed when she was in her sophomore year.
“Honestly, it completely changed my life,” she said. “Before Phoenix Academy, I hated school, I could barely read. But that changed everything, I started begging to go to school.”
Nancy Liebermann, the school’s executive director, said there are likely thousands of people whose lives, like Bridget’s, have been enhanced for the school co-founded in 1991 by Mactier and her friend Patti Clark.
Roskens says the Mactiers have had a transformative influence on the world of equestrian sport in this part of the country.
“They charted a course that introduced many of us to a sport we would never have experienced without them,” Roskens said. A direct line can be drawn between the Mactiers Equestrian Center and the international horse racing competition that Omaha hosted in 2017, said Roskens, founder of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. The equestrian community stemming from Ponca Hills Farm was key to attracting the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup Finals to Omaha, she said.
Robyn Eden, a licensed official with the United States Equestrian Federation, the national governing body for Olympic equestrian sports, said the Mactiers had made a difference with the extensive facilities they had built at their horse farm, thanks to their standards of excellence and the quality of the teachers they had brought. in Omaha.
“It’s a legacy of excellence that Ann had,” Eden said. “She believed in building the best, bringing the best, and expecting the best.”
To introduce young people to horseback riding, the family started a local chapter of the educational program known as United States Pony Clubs and they held a national Pony Club gathering. They were also instrumental in the growth of the English style of riding in this region and they opened the farm to local educational programs for young people.
The family home is in the hills of Ponca and the Mactiers were strong supporters of the Florence region, contributing to its growth and progress.
Moriarity says her mother and father were high school sweethearts who had been married for over 60 years. All were welcome at the Mactier dinner table, she said.
“I could take three people home (for dinner) at any time, but if there was more than that, I had to let him know,” she recalls.
“You always put an extra seat at the table so that if someone comes in, they always feel welcome.”