Thalia Mara, founder of the USA International Ballet Competition, was posthumously inducted into the Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame in September 2016.

Mara is the first individual from the arts to be inducted by Innovate Mississippi, a nonprofit organization with the mission to drive innovation and technology-based economic development in Mississippi. The Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame, launched in 2008, celebrates and honors outstanding individuals and companies who helped put Mississippi on the map as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. Innovators blaze the trail of achievement for those who will follow in their footsteps.

Accepting the award, Mara’s niece, Leanne Mahoney of New York City, said Mara cared about the human condition, the quality of life, wherever she was—especially in Mississippi, her adopted home. “I believe she would be particularly pleased tonight,” she told the audience,”for your purpose in Innovate Mississippi is to encourage with nurturing and resources other creative thinkers with big ideas to persevere in realizing them.” She shared a statement Mara had made when she received a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi “Ageless Hero” award: “What brings me the most satisfaction is to have been able to contribute to the growth and development of the natural talents of many Mississippians and to have contributed to raising the consciousness of Mississippians to the greatness of this state and its people.”

Quoting from the foreword to On Pointe, published after Mara’s death and one of 12 books she wrote about ballet, Mahoney read the words of Richard Philp, then Editor in Chief Emeritus for Dance Magazine. He wrote of Mara: “She was a monumental pioneer in 20th century American dance. Teacher, writer, educator, performer, philosopher, historian and advocate, Thalia’s accomplishments in ballet were astonishing to many of us who at first wondered and watched from afar as she brought the first international ballet competition in the United States to Jackson.”

Photo: Leanne Mahoney accepts the late Thalia Mara’s award from Tony Jeff of Innovate Mississippi.