Schwartz named 2019 Barnum fest ringmaster
Martin D. Schwartz of Fairfield, the retired president and CEO of The Kennedy Center and a long-time community leader and advocate, has been announced as the 71st ringmaster of The Barnum Festival, one of the region’s best-loved annual traditions.
“We are happy to have Martin Schwartz as the 2019 Barnum Festival ringmaster,” said Armando Goncalves, market president of People’s United Bank and president of the Barnum Festival board of directors.
“We are looking forward to building on this year’s theme ‘Everyone Counts,’ which aligns with PT Barnum’s legacy to bring fun and laughter to everyone,” said Goncalves. “Under Marty’s leadership, this year we will have a great Barnum Festival. He will do a tremendous job representing all our communities.”
Schwartz retired from The Kennedy Center earlier this year. A champion for people with disabilities, he has touched the lives of thousands of families throughout Connecticut during his nearly 40 years as an executive and is nationally recognized in the rehabilitation field.
“As ringmaster of the Barnum Festival, I have an opportunity to give back to the community in a big way,” said Schwartz. “I am truly honored to lead this major state festival and will be introducing new exciting events. In keeping with this year’s theme ‘Everyone Counts,’ we will be embracing and supporting people with disabilities and donating part of the proceeds to support special needs children. ”
When Schwartz became the first president and CEO of The Kennedy Center in 1978, this small community-based rehabilitation organization was a grassroots non-profit founded in 1951 by its namesake, Evelyn Kennedy, and 12 parents.
At the time, the agency served less than 200 adults with intellectual disabilities, employed 48 staff, and operated with an annual budget of $776,000. Now headquartered in Trumbull, the Kennedy Center serves more than 2,000 individuals annually from birth through their senior years with a variety of disabilities, employs over 750 staff, and operates with an annual $32 million budget. The agency is one of the largest employers in the region and one of the largest rehabilitation organizations in the state of Connecticut.
Throughout the decades, under Schwartz’s stewardship, one groundbreaking program after another was created providing greater opportunities for people with disabilities.
His leadership ability extends beyond The Kennedy Center and he has provided leadership to numerous community and philanthropic organizations throughout the state and country. He has served as president of the Trumbull Chamber of Commerce, president of the Probus Club of Greater Bridgeport, a civic organization supporting individuals with disabilities, and president of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, the statewide advocacy organization for organizations serving individuals with disabilities.
In 2000, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Bridgeport for his humanitarian accomplishments. Other honors include: the Regional Leadership Award from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award from the Bridgeport Dental Association, Probian of the Year from the Probus Club of Greater Bridgeport, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Community Providers Association, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission Humanitarian Award, and the 2018 Greater Bridgeport Medical Association Dominick V. Sorge, MD Distinguished Community Service Award.
On the national level, Schwartz has been an accreditation surveyor from 1984 to the present for CARF, the international accreditation body for rehabilitation organizations. Since 1981, The Kennedy Center has sought and consistently achieved the highest accreditation from CARF.
Still active in the community, Schwartz is a member of the board of directors emeritus of the Trumbull Chamber of Commerce. He also holds two volunteer positions at Fairfield University: advisory board of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and Distinguished Visiting Professional.
The Barnum Festival is a celebration of the city of Bridgeport and the surrounding area that was organized in 1948 to help support local businesses and honor P.T. Barnum — a world-renowned showman and city leader. The first festival was held in 1949. The Barnum Festival events focus on building community spirit, fostering philanthropy, and celebrating the diverse cultures represented by residents. The festival culminates in a weekend-long Barnum Palooza that hosts parades, concerts, fireworks, and other family-friendly festivities. Visit http://barnumfestival.com for more information.