Chairpersons and Trustees
Members of the Cleveland Foundation Board, 1919‒2013
In its early years the work of the Cleveland Foundation was overseen by a five-member body of public representatives called the Survey Committee. The committee’s major responsibilities were to choose the subjects of the municipal studies that the foundation commissioned in its early years and to hire and supervise the work of a survey director. Research was suspended during World War I and the Survey Committee disbanded.
In 1917, when it became clear that the foundation would shortly realize its first discretionary income from gifts, Goff’s envisioned five-member “committee to distribute” was appointed. (See “Goff’s Vision” for an explanation of the process by which the foundation board is chosen.) The members of the first board, which was called the Foundation Committee, were steel manufacturer Thomas G. Fitzsimons (who served as chairperson), dry-goods wholesaler Malcolm L. McBride, machine tool manufacturer Ambrose Swasey, civic leader Belle Sherwin and banker James D. Williamson.
More than a year elapsed before sufficient monies had accumulated to allow the Foundation Committee to fulfill its core role as a grantmaking body. With about $25,000 in income on hand by January 1919, the committee began to meet regularly every month. By May, the first grants had been determined. The committee had decided to allocate most of the available income to staffing city and school playgrounds that otherwise would have limited their hours of summer operation because of inadequate public funding.
Goff had thoughtfully articulated the qualifications of the persons entrusted with making such weighty decisions on behalf of their fellow citizens. Members were to be “residents of Cleveland, men or women interested in welfare work, possessing a knowledge of the civic, educational, physical and moral needs of the community; preferably but one, and in no event to exceed two members of said committee, to belong to the same religious sect or denomination; those holding or seeking political office to be disqualified from serving.” From the beginning, gender equality was honored; indeed, the first person named to the first Foundation Committee was a woman, the extraordinary civic leader Belle Sherwin. Relevant experience—summarized in an early foundation document as “true fitness for serving the public welfare”—and diversity of backgrounds, beliefs and perspectives remain touchstones of the appointment process to this day.
As there were originally no term limits, tenures on the Foundation Committee (whose name was changed to the Distribution Committee in the 1940s) varied during the foundation’s first half-century of operation. In the mid-1960s, appointment for two consecutive five-year terms became the norm. In 1967, the foundation’s trustee banks agreed that the five-member Distribution Committee ultimately should be increased to 11 members, in part to make the committee more broadly representative of Greater Cleveland. That year saw the appointment to the Distribution Committee of its first Jewish members, Edgar A. Hahn and Frank E. Joseph, and its first African-American member, Kenneth W. Clement, M.D.
During a corporate reorganization in the early 2000s, the committee was again expanded, to 15 members, five of whom would thereafter be appointed by the board itself. The venerable title—Distribution Committee—no longer suited the changing function of the trustees. The foundation’s governing body would henceforth be referred to as a board of directors, in keeping with the increasingly strategic nature of the board’s intended role. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on approving grants, board members now concentrate on identifying and directing long-term, proactive initiatives in areas where there are opportunities for the Cleveland Foundation to have a substantial positive impact.
The trustees have also assumed other policy-making functions, serving on new or expanded committees that deal with asset development, investment management, human resources, information technology and marketing and communications. The new governance structure has greatly enhanced the ways in which the Cleveland Foundation can act as a resource to Greater Cleveland—a goal shared by all those who have served as trustees since the foundation’s inception.
The wise counsel and leadership of these individuals have been integral to the foundation’s growth and record of accomplishment. Here are their names, biographies and pictures. Their tenures and appointing authority are also provided. The portraits of individuals who have served in the capacity of chairperson are indicated with an orange bar.