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Q&A with Colleen O’Connor Wernig

Get to know The Circle’s new chair and her aspirations for the new year

Colleen O’Connor Wernig, new chair of The Circle of Women's Health Philanthropists, is a member of The Circle’s Marie Lawson Society. She and her husband, Mark, are lifelong community volunteers highlighted by a legacy of support and involvement at Summa Health.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, as the second oldest of eight children. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of the Holy Cross, where I met my husband, Mark, who grew up in Akron. We are blessed to have three sons, one daughter and six grandchildren.

How long have you lived in the Akron community?

After getting engaged in college, Mark asked if I would give Akron a try for a year. I didn’t know anyone in Akron, but it’s such a welcoming community. Once we started our family, Akron became a natural fit, and I’ve called it home for the last 40 years.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I successfully recruited three of my brothers — “the O’Connor Brothers” — to migrate to Akron as well. We all live within walking distance of one another’s homes. As an added bonus, our parents Tom and Dorothy O’Connor moved from West Palm Beach to Akron just last year.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I enjoy floral arranging, painting and golfing. I developed a passion for floral design through my work at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, and I travel extensively as a Garden Club of America Floral Design Judge. It was my privilege to serve as past president of the Akron Garden Club.

How do you keep a balance between your volunteer work and family?

I do what I enjoy and feel passionate about. Mark and I find organizations that we want to support as a couple. Both of us were raised by parents who were great examples of commitment and volunteerism in the community.

How did you first become involved with The Circle?

Ginger Marchetta, The Circle’s past chair, invited me to get involved. We have been friends over the years beginning when our children were together at Walsh Jesuit High School and continuing that connection with Georgetown University.

What is your family’s connection with Summa Health?

I have always felt a strong connection with Summa Health as all four of our children were born there. My mother-in-law, Marty Wernig, was an early St Thomas Women’s Board president. Mark currently serves on the Summa Foundation Board of Directors and Summa’s Charles Deering Legacy Advisor Leadership Council. I have been a member of The Circle since 2015.

What makes The Circle’s mission powerful for you?

I am drawn to The Circle because of its philanthropic vision and dedication to improving the overall health and well-being of women in our community. Our group has grown to 70-plus members in such a short period. Our members are incredible ambassadors for women’s healthcare in our community, for Summa and The Circle.

What are your aspirations for the new year?

I want to continue growing our network of members so we can expand our impact on women’s health in our community. It is rewarding to feel ownership in the Summa Health projects that we have funded and supported. Our members know that they have positively impacted many lives within our community.

What has been your favorite program funded by a Circle grant?

Last year, we were able to fund cancer research with zebrafish, which has far-reaching implications.

What would you say to other women about getting involved?

I find there is a very positive energy to working with dedicated women and friends who share a drive to support and improve women’s health in our community and potentially beyond.

For more information about The Circle, contact Ashley Manning, development specialist, Summa Foundation, at 330.375.7524 or


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