by Teresa Ohlrich Johnson
Iris Timmermann Schumann has spent much of her adult life in the determined, passionate pursuit of preserving New Braunfels’ history. She has catalogued and recorded the documents, photographs, and artifacts of her beloved hometown and taught others to do the same. The Braunfels Foundation Trust is determined that her contributions will not be forgotten and preserves her place in the history of New Braunfels by naming her a Living Legend.
Iris Timmermann graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1948, and after a year at Texas Women’s University, left college to marry her sweetheart, Merritt Schumann. When Merritt returned home from military service in Korea, the couple decided to remain in and make New Braunfels their home. Raising five daughters in the New Braunfels Independent School District offered ample opportunities for volunteer work, and Iris took on leadership positions impacting students in the NBISD. She served as president of the Seele, New Braunfels High School, and NBISD City Council PTAs earning a PTA Life Membership Award in 1970. She was an active Band Booster and received the NBISD’s highest volunteer honor, the Silver Unicorn Award in 1985. For twenty-nine years, Iris volunteered as a Girl Scout Leader and served on local and area councils. She and Merritt taught Sunday school, vacation church schools, and led youth fellowship programs at First Protestant Church.
After her first child left for college, Iris herself returned to school graduating with a Bachelors in Education in 1974 and a Masters in History in 1980 from Southwest Texas State University (Texas State). She taught History at SWTSU and worked in the University’s emerging Archives program eventually becoming the Acting Archivist. She received a Texas Archivist Designation in 1980 and was in the first class to receive National Archives Certification from the Society of American Archivists in 1986.
Her love for her historic hometown is probably best illustrated by her volunteer work at the Sophienburg Archives. Iris volunteered as the Archivist at the Sophienburg and for thirteen years served as Archives Chairman replacing her mentor, an ailing Fred Oheim. Mr. Oheim’s dream was to establish an Archive for New Braunfels, and Iris used her education, professional knowledge, and considerable energy to establish the systems still used today for recording, interpreting, and preserving vital information. She introduced the first computer software, taught genealogy, and helped procure the Old City Hall Building when the Archives outgrew the Emmie Seele Faust Library. Iris was instrumental in the success of “Reflections” the oral history radio program produced by the Sophienburg for broadcast on KGNB that is still actively recording and preserving the recollections of New Braunfels citizens. As Chair of the Plaza Fountain Revitalization during the City’s Sesquicentennial, Iris helped fundraise and ensure the fountain’s exact historical restoration.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. The New Braunfels ISD Education Foundation named her a Distinguished Alumni in 2007. The New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce recognized Iris’s contributions with a President’s Award for Historic Preservation in 1986, a place in Honors Hall in 1995, and ultimately with the Besserung Award — often referred to as the outstanding citizen’s award – in 1999.
Iris and Merritt raised five daughters, Lynn, Kay, Jeannine, Christine, and Anne, along with thirteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
In her application to the City of New Braunfels for a seat on the Historic Landmark Commission, Iris noted that although “my employment resume is very light…” she did have some volunteer experience at the Sophienburg Archives. Iris got her seat on the Historic Landmark Commission, New Braunfels got a first class archives where research is done daily by scholars and citizens alike, and the Braunfels Foundation Trust gets to recognize Iris Schumann for her many contributions to her beloved hometown.