A communications specialist for three decades, Schnack was an award-winning writer, reporter, public relations professional and advocate. She began her career working for daily newspapers on the police, city hall and medical beats. She wrote for national magazines and newspapers, including Newsweek, McCall’s and Los Angeles Times. She also was a TV field producer and director for Newsweek Video.
She moved into public relations at two nonprofit medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Schnack handled the hospitals’ crisis communications during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1991 US Air crash at LAX.
Schnack counseled the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the 1993 Waco cult standoff and later helped the world church establish a crisis communications plan. She went to Africa for ADRA, a humanitarian aid agency, to help with communications during the Rwanda civil war. She later conducted communication seminars for ADRA’s field offices in Russia, Azerbaijan, Ghana, Guinea, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru.
She also has worked for International Medical Corps, World Vision and Vital Voices. Patty DeDominic and Mary traveled across the USA and around the world doing women’s business advocacy training including China and the Middle East. Mary founded the Sedona chapter of NAWBO and helped grow the Los Angeles and the California chapters, having provided leadership training and media consulting services for many years.
As owner of a public relations consulting agency, Mary Schnack & Associates represented sophisticated organizations from corporations and small businesses to government agencies and associations and nonprofit organizations. During her almost 20 years as an entrepreneur she has branched out into other projects and businesses, as well. She created a partnership in Nairobi, Kenya, to conduct communications training in Africa, formed Asia Business Connect, Inc. to help businesses that want to do business between the United States and Asia and works with entrepreneurs in Iceland to present the global BRANDit workshop.
Schnack won awards for her writing and public relations work from the Associated Press, International Association of Business Communications; Public Relations Society of America; Iowa Press Association and the Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Association. She was the 2011 recipient of the Women Impacting Public Policy President’s Award, and named to the 2011 50 Women of Influence and Power by Minority Enterprise Advocate Magazine.
In 2010, Schnack received the Enterprising Women of the Year award. She was the recipient of the 2004 U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women in Business Advocate award for the Arizona District and Region IX and in 2008 she was awarded The International Alliance for Women Inaugural World of Difference 100 Awards, Advertising Working Mother of the Year Trailblazer Award and Member of the Year for Women Impacting Public Policy. This year she was presented with the highest Athena Award by founder Martha Mertz in Sedona.
She lead the Great American Smokeout for the American Cancer Society, Los Angeles, for more than 10 years, and was a consultant and instructor for the SBA’s Small Business Development Center in West Los Angeles.
Schnack was co-producer of the International Women’s Festivals, which began in Santa Barbara and Arizona in 2008 and now are held internationally. She served on the National Association of Women Business Owner’s national board of directors and was co-founder of NAWBO’s International Forum.
She received her bachelors of science degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism.
Instead of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made for a trust for the benefit of her daughter, Erika.
Cancer may have taken her life, but it never dampened her Spirit.
A celebration of her life will be held in Sedona the weekend of March 3.