In 1982, the Manley-Winser Foundation, set forth by the wills of Marian Manley Winser, and Gerald Winser, was established to help fund projects and programs of educational, service, religious, and health organizations. The launch of the Foundation continued a long tradition of contributions from the Manley and Winser families to Summit and the local community.
Marian Manley was born in 1892 in Kansas but spent most of her childhood and adulthood in Summit. Marian married Gerald Winser in 1924 in New York City. Gerald was a World War I Navy veteran who spent his career as a salesman for Mutual Life Insurance Company in New York City. According to the 1930 federal census, the Winsers lived at 14 Locust Avenue. By 1940 they had moved to 61 Deforest Avenue where they spent the rest of their lives.
The Manley Winser families began supporting the Summit community in 1858 when Marian’s grandfather, George Manley, moved to Summit as a young boy. As a successful New York stockbroker, Manley became one of the key movers in Summit’s early development and one of the largest landowners in town. He gifted the land for the first Summit Library building (currently Summit Playhouse) which opened in 1891. As a child, Marian helped to shelve children’s books in the library. Marian was recruited to work at the Newark Public Library in 1915 while making a speech on the street corner in Summit for the New Jersey League for Women’s Suffrage. Starting off her career as an assistant to the director of the Newark Public Library, Marian rose to become the director of the Business Branch of the Library and wrote several books including Business Information, How to Find and Use It (1955).
Marian was president of the New Jersey Library Association, attended library conferences across the country, and became a nationally known librarian. Though she worked on national library issues, her heart belonged to Summit. In a speech to the Rotarians in 1947 Marian said that the Summit Library was “almost the closest thing to her heart.” She called for the community to learn more about what the Library could do for them and urged them to make suggestions to the Board about how to improve it. Marian became president of the Summit Library Board of Trustees in 1948 and served on the Board for 11 years. She was instrumental in spearheading major improvements to the library. Under her leadership, the Library made plans to construct a new, bigger, and better building (completed in 1964). She created a user survey in 1947, then published and distributed the results, extended the library hours to our present day 9AM to 9PM, increased staff, and expanded the collection.
In December of 2017, the Manley-Winser Foundation officially dissolved, and the monies were split to three main beneficiaries: The Calvary Episcopal Church, The Summit Fortnightly Club, and the Summit Free Public Library. Monies from the former Manley-Winser Foundation continue to fund various programs through these institutions. Summit Library’s Explore Your World series, the Summer Reading Program, and Shakespeare on the Village Green are all funded by the Manley Winser Memorial Fund.
Quiet Study Room 3 is named for the Manley-Winser Foundation because of the Foundation’s generous financial gift to the library renovation of 1997-1998. The Library is grateful to the Foundation for continuing to support the library, and to the memory of Marian Manley Winser, who was a great champion of the library over the years. The significant contributions of the Manley-Winser Foundation and of Marian Manley Winser have helped to make the Summit Free Public Library a thriving institution and the City of Summit a vibrant community.
Many thanks to Adult Services librarian Elizabeth Hathway for researching the contributions of the Manley-Winser Foundation to the Summit Free Public Library and the Summit community.