An Idea Whose Time Had Come
A wise person once said: “How fine it would be,” if an individual who was “about to make a will could go to a permanently established organization…and say, ‘Here is a large sum of money. I want to leave it to be used for the good of the community, but I have no way of knowing what will be the greatest need 50 years from now. Therefore, I place it in your hands to determine what should be done.’” That person was Frederick Harris Goff, lawyer, banker and founder of the Cleveland Foundation.
Social Services Champion on the First Foundation Board
Belle Sherwin (see video) served on the foundation’s board from 1917 until 1924, and she and her sister, Prudence, added substantially to the foundation’s pool of unrestricted monies with testamentary gifts (worth $6.5 million at the time of Belle’s death in 1955) that created the Henry A. Sherwin and Frances M. Sherwin Memorial Fund at the foundation in honor of their parents. But Belle’s informal influence on the foundation’s work was just as significant. Acting in her capacity as president of the Cleveland Welfare Council, it was she who suggested the topic of the foundation’s first municipal survey: “poor relief,” a cause to which she was especially devoted. She also recommended that the foundation hire Raymond Moley as its first full-time director.
After assuming the welfare council’s presidency in April 1914, Miss Sherwin had convened community meetings to discuss the increasing demands being placed on the city’s private and public relief agencies by a severe recession that year. Faced in the fall of 1914 with the imminent prospect of the entire system running out of funds, Sherwin asked the Cleveland Foundation’s survey director Allen Burns, who was a member-at-large of the welfare council, to consider commissioning a study of how to strengthen the city’s relief effort. The foundation’s Survey Committee approved this request, and Burns hired Sherman C. Kingsley, director of the Elizabeth McCormick Memorial Fund of Chicago, and Amelia Sears, welfare director for Cook County, Illinois, to conduct the study.
The “Survey of Cleveland Agencies Which Are Giving Relief to Families in Their Homes” was released on December 1, 1914. It called for the complete reorganization of the City of Cleveland’s relief department. Issued almost 20 years before the New Deal transferred public responsibility for public welfare from the private sector to the state, this recommendation went unheeded. The survey did serve to establish an ongoing working relationship between the Cleveland Foundation and the city’s social coordinators. This bond tightened after Sherman Kingsley became the first executive secretary of the new Welfare Federation of Cleveland, formed in 1917 from the merger of the Welfare Council and the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy.
Most important, the investigation triggered by Belle Sherwin articulated a core challenge that would define the course of philanthropy here and nationally over the next century. “Poverty is a community responsibility,” averred the survey of Cleveland’s fragmented and embryonic welfare system, continuing, “the whole community must realize the extent of destitution, know its causes and remove them….”
First of eight surveys of pressing urban problems commissioned
The surveys, which document problems and recommend solutions, establish a precedent for community foundations to lead as well as support.
Frederick H. Goff
National Intellectual Treasure
During the first few decades of the 20th century, Frederick Harris Goff was one of Cleveland’s most prominent and beloved citizens. He was also a national intellectual treasure but, sadly, his name is not well known among most 21st-century Americans or even among Clevelanders. This lack of recognition is unfortunate because Goff, like his better-known contemporaries Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, changed philanthropy forever, here and around the world. As the American philosopher William James has stated, “The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlives it.” As more and more citizens across the globe adopt and adapt Goff’s concept of pooling their charitable assets to create a permanent vehicle for addressing pressing local needs, his humanitarian legacy burns ever brighter. For this reason Goff’s life and career merit reconsideration here.
The World’s First Permanent but Flexible “Community Savings Account”
The Cleveland Foundation was an entirely new concept in philanthropy. Captains of business and industry such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie had conceived of creating private foundations to channel their immense wealth into philanthropic activities. Goff envisioned an alternative mechanism for ensuring the honorable and productive use of monies accumulated over and above one’s immediate needs. Endowing such a foundation was a simple and affordable way for individuals of modest to comfortable means to leave a charitable legacy.
James R. Garfield
First Legal Adviser
James Rudolph Garfield, a Columbia University-educated lawyer who began practice in Cleveland in 1888, was the first legal counsel of the Cleveland Foundation. The son of Ohio-born President James A. Garfield, he handled the foundation’s legal affairs until 1946, the year he turned 81. Garfield died in 1950.
During his 32-year tenure as legal counsel, Garfield worked with the probate and trust attorneys whose clients had bequeathed funds to the foundation to make sure that donors’ wishes were clearly understood and scrupulously observed. Untangling knotty issues (often involving misunderstandings on the part of beneficiaries with lifetime interests in the donors’ estates), he was responsible for the smooth and timely transfer of the first $10 million in endowment monies to the foundation.
Garfield’s most shining hour came during heated public debate about the findings of the Cleveland Foundation’s criminal justice survey in 1921. In his damning report about the performance of municipal and county courts, attorney-investigator Reginald Heber Smith documented a host of abuses that conspired to protect Cleveland’s criminals from conviction. Of every 100 felony cases originating with city prosecutors, Smith had discovered, only 29 on average proceeded through to sentencing. Among the causes identified by Smith for the laxity of the system were the defense of habitual criminals by a ring of attorneys with powerful political ties, underpaid prosecutors with inexperienced assistants, and the shirking of jury duty by well-educated citizens.
Members of the judiciary mounted a fierce public counterattack, labeling Smith’s investigation “unjust” and a “criminal waste of money.” Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge Homer G. Powell went so far as to threaten to jail the foundation’s board for contempt. The board members promptly huddled with Garfield, who courageously advised his clients to inform “Judge Powell that he could send the sheriff anytime he wanted to receive us.”
The Cleveland Foundation is established on January 2
Cleveland Trust bank directors approve a Resolution and Declaration of Trust appointing the bank as the foundation’s sole trustee.
The Community Foundation Movement
How Goff’s Idea Has Enriched the World’s Social Capital
Cleveland banker Fred Goff did not rest on his laurels once his idea for a community trust had become a reality. He worked hard to spread the concept as broadly as possible. Even before the Cleveland Foundation was incorporated on January 2, 1914, the publicity department of Goff’s bank sent out a national press release describing the foundation’s structure, purpose and expectations of financial support. Before the month was out, articles announcing the birth of a new kind of philanthropy had appeared in the New York Times, Saturday Evening Post and two progressive journals, Outlook and The Survey. Goff also authored an article about the Cleveland Foundation for the January 1914 issue of Trust Companies magazine.
“To Uncover the Causes of Poverty and Crime and Point Out the Cure”
Fred Goff obeyed the dictum of Cleveland civic architecture designer Daniel Burnham to “make no little plans” as they have “no magic to stir men’s blood.” Less than six weeks after the Cleveland Foundation’s creation, Goff publicly announced that the community trust would undertake as its first act “a great social and economic survey of Cleveland, to uncover the causes of poverty and crime and point out the cure.” The research project, which Goff expected would take two years to complete, would be a way for the foundation, which had no endowment as yet, to make an immediate contribution—by increasing public awareness of the problems facing a community in the throes of rapid urbanization. It would also be an indispensable blueprint to guide grantmaking at that future date when income would be available for distribution.
James D. Williamson
Board Chairman, 1917–1922
James DeLong Williamson (1849–1935) was the son of Samuel Williamson Jr., a Cleveland lawyer and legislator, and Mary E. Tisdale, a prominent member of the Cleveland Ladies Temperance Union. The family was staunchly Presbyterian (James’s grandfather was a charter member of what would later be known as the Old Stone Church). After graduating from Western Reserve College (A.B., A.M.), Williamson enrolled in Union Theological Seminary and earned his B.D. degree in 1875. That same year he became pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Norwalk, Ohio.
In 1888, Williamson returned with his family to Cleveland, where he pastored Beckwith Memorial Church. He served as acting president (1912–15) and then executive vice president (1915–21, 1924–27) of Society for Savings. In between his terms as VP of the bank, he stepped in as acting president of Western Reserve University.
First designated grant awarded
As per the donor’s wishes, the recipient is the Cleveland Protestant Orphans Asylum (now Beech Brook).
First discretionary grants awarded
Raymond C. Moley
Raymond Moley, best known as a leading member of the “brain trust” that guided Franklin D. Roosevelt into the White House and as FDR’s first assistant secretary of state, became the first full-time director of the Cleveland Foundation on September 1, 1919. Born in the Cuyahoga County town of Berea, Ohio, in 1886, Moley graduated from his hometown college (now Baldwin Wallace University) in 1906 and taught at a country school in nearby Olmsted Falls before being elected “boy mayor” of that rural village in 1908.
He next decided to pursue a master’s degree (Oberlin College, 1913) and managed to earn a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University in 1918 while teaching that subject at Western Reserve College in Cleveland and organizing citizenship classes for Cleveland’s foreign-born as the mayor’s Americanization chief during World War I. These varied experiences recommended Moley to the board of the Cleveland Foundation, which hired him in May 1919 to complete work on the foundation’s second major municipal survey, a recreation study. When Leonard Ayres (who had conducted the first major survey, on education) declined the offer of the foundation’s directorship, the board turned to Moley, awarding him a contract for a one-year term at a salary of $5,000.
During his four-year tenure as director, Moley shepherded two additional research efforts. The first turned out to be a minor inquiry into the causes of political disaffection among newly arrived immigrants, whose interests Moley continued to champion as the volunteer chair of the Citizens Bureau, a nonprofit organization that offered legal aid to the foreign-born. The dissection of the city’s dysfunctional and unfair criminal justice system, officially requested by the Cleveland Bar Association at Moley’s behest, was perhaps the most important of the eight surveys commissioned by foundation.
In 1922, Moley accepted an offer from Columbia University to become an associate professor of government at its sister Barnard College the following year. His work on behalf of Democrat Al Smith’s failed presidential campaigns in 1924 and 1928 introduced the political science professor to Smith’s successor as New York governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their formal association began when Governor Roosevelt drafted Moley to design a model state parole plan.
Moley became one of FDR’s most trusted advisers and speechwriters during the governor’s campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1932. Fred Goff’s former protégé persuaded FDR and the Democrats to embrace a progressive economic and social agenda calling for such reforms as a massive federal public works program to assuage joblessness, Wall Street accountability and transparency, and the separation of commercial and investment banking. The term Moley coined to describe this agenda—the “New Deal”—would forever be associated with Roosevelt’s acuminous first term in the White House.
Moley’s service as assistant secretary of state was brief but consequential. Because his office was located in the West Wing, he acted as gatekeeper of Roosevelt’s time while continuing to draft presidential speeches and fireside chats. A difference of opinion with the secretary of state about foreign trade—Moley favored a certain degree of protectionism—prompted the assistant secretary’s resignation in September 1933. He soon found new bully pulpits as a syndicated political journalist and the editor of the weekly journal Today (which later merged with Newsweek).
When he left the Cleveland Foundation, Moley said that he regretted the move because he considered Cleveland “in many ways the most progressive city in America.” Later in life, he sized up his hometown legacy differently. He now believed that the most important contribution “by far” of the criminal justice survey was “what it did for the Cleveland Foundation.” The high-impact survey, he had come to recognize, “literally underlined the importance of the foundation as one of Cleveland’s great institutions.”
Malcolm L. McBride
Board Chairman, 1922–1941
Malcolm Lee McBride (1878–1941) counted among his ancestors an Irish immigrant who in 1785, after losing a lawsuit to George Washington, was ejected from property owned by the general. McBride’s father was president of the Root & McBride Company, a wholesale dry-goods firm in Cleveland that had become one of the Midwest’s largest such concerns. After graduating from University School, McBride attended Yale (B.A., 1900; honorary M.A., 1920) where he captained the football team in 1899 and served as head coach of the 1900 team. He then joined Root & McBride, becoming vice president and treasurer upon his father’s death in 1909. Elected president in 1929, he held that position for the remainder of his life.
In 1905, McBride married Cleveland-born Lucia McCurdy, and they both played active roles in the city’s public and philanthropic life. She founded the Cleveland Woman Suffrage Party, helped to organize the city’s League of Women Voters, and served on the boards of the Visiting Nurse Association, Cleveland School of Art, and Cleveland Play House, among others. He also served on the boards and committees of various organizations, including the Cleveland Civic League, Cleveland Hospital Council, and Cleveland Association for Criminal Justice. But most notable was his 24-year service to the Cleveland Foundation (1917–41; chair, 1922–41). During his chairmanship the principal value of the foundation’s funds increased from an estimated $359,000 to over $6.7 million, with appropriations totaling more than $2.57 million.
Carlton K. Matson
Carlton K. Matson assumed the directorship of the Cleveland Foundation in September 1924, after serving as interim director following the departure of Raymond Moley. Like his predecessor, Matson was a graduate (class of 1915) of Oberlin College. After earning a master’s degree in political science from Columbia University—his thesis examined the State of Ohio’s budget—he worked at New York City’s Bureau of Municipal Research and briefly for a newspaper. He then accepted a position as publicity director of the Welfare Federation of Cleveland and during his time there co-authored a report for the Cleveland Foundation’s recreation survey. Fred Goff subsequently hired Matson to head Cleveland Trust’s public relations department. Matson left Cleveland Trust to pursue a career in financial advertising in Cleveland and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In sum, the foundation’s second director was not “from the conventional uplifter genus,” as Oberlin’s alumni magazine put it shortly after his appointment. “Mr. Matson … has the inquiring mind—almost a restless, unquiet mind,” the magazine went on. “Yet his feet stay on the ground.”
Matson lived up to his advance billing as a realist. At the time of Goff’s death in 1923, the foundation’s endowment was generating less than $15,000 annually in unrestricted income. With its subsidy from Cleveland Trust reduced to $5,000 a year, there was little means to undertake exhaustive, expensive municipal studies. This may not have greatly concerned Matson, who perceived that too many Clevelanders thought that the foundation was a research organization. If the community trust was to fulfill its basic mission of disbursing grants annually for civic benefit, Matson realized that he would have to become actively involved in fund-raising.
In the summer of 1926, he began sending copies of a newspaper article on community trusts to various prominent Clevelanders, a means of introducing himself disguised as a solicitation of their comments. He also systematically sent to every attorney in Cleveland a copy of a speech recently given at the City Club of Cleveland by Ralph Hayes, the director of the New York Community Trust. In the address, Hayes, who had been Goff’s personal assistant at Cleveland Trust, stated his conviction that the invention of the community foundation would one day be ranked as Cleveland’s most important contribution to the world of ideas.
The feedback that Matson received from his mailings betrayed the ignorance, indifference or resistance of the very persons he hoped to convince to endow the foundation or persuade their wealthy clients to do so. Also resulting in disappointment was his attempt to effect a merger of the foundation and the Welfare Federation, whose annual Community Fund campaign consistently generated millions of dollars for its member social service agencies. In the process of pleading the case for the merger, however, Matson converted investment banker Warren S. Hayden, a member of the federation’s executive committee, into a dedicated advocate for the Cleveland Foundation.
Hayden sent a letter to the president of Cleveland Trust in early 1928 that urged the bank to establish a multiple trusteeship as a means of securing a broader base of support for the Cleveland Foundation. Although Hayden spoke solely as a public-spirited citizen, because of his position on the board of the Union Trust Company, Cleveland’s largest bank and, as such, second-ranked Cleveland Trust’s closest competitor, his words carried the promise of the financial community’s cooperation.
Sentiment slowly crystallized among Cleveland Trust officers in favor of multiple trusteeship, but Matson, who had helped to pave the way for this expansion of the foundation’s fund-raising powers, did not witness the Cleveland Foundation’s official affiliation with four additional Cleveland banks in 1931. He had resigned in March 1928 to accept a newspaper editorship. He later directed the Buffalo Foundation for two years.
Matson’s restless intellect eventually brought him back to Cleveland, where he became a greatly admired chief editorial writer for the Cleveland Press. He died in 1948.
Frances Southworth Goff
Kept the Foundation Strong after the Death of Her Husband
Frances Southworth Goff was in every respect the equal of her husband, Frederick Harris Goff. A woman of character and intelligence, she came from a family that helped to settle the portion of northeastern Ohio called the Western Reserve. Her father, William Palmer Southworth, a carpenter who arrived in Cleveland in 1836 and became a builder and small contractor, was credited with laying Cleveland’s first sidewalks and waterlines. After the Civil War, W. P. opened a general store near Public Square, the city’s downtown commons. Frances’s mother, Louisa (née Stark), was active in the suffrage movement and once headed an effort to secure signatures for women’s right to vote.
Sent by her parents to Vassar College (class of 1886), Frances Goff married Fred Goff in 1894, when she was 30 and he was 36. In addition to rearing three children, she fulfilled her role as the wife of a prominent citizen by engaging in good works. Frances was a founder of the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy, organized in January 1913 at the behest of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce to coordinate funding of the city’s social service agencies. The federation had a 30-member board, one-third of whom had been selected by chamber officials to represent the city at large.
Mrs. Goff’s familiarity with the federation’s attempt to provide for public representation may account for her sympathetic response to an observation by a Cleveland Press editorial writer named Livy S. Richard that the Cleveland Trust board was not necessarily the best qualified judge of how to distribute the Cleveland Foundation’s funds. Fred Goff, who had sought feedback on his community trust concept from a wide range of sources, had initially dismissed Richard’s recommendation that money meant for the use of the people should be controlled by the people as “nut radicalism.” But when he showed his wife the letter he had received from the newspaperman, Frances responded, “Fred, I believe that fellow is right.” Goff revised his plan for the foundation’s governance accordingly.
The year after Fred Goff’s death in 1923, Frances Goff was appointed to the Cleveland Foundation board (then called the Foundation Committee) by the mayor of Cleveland, John D. Marshall. Reappointed by Marshall and his two successors, she served on the board for nearly two decades, during which time she responded capably and wholeheartedly to the call to transform her late husband’s dreams and hopes for the usefulness of the Cleveland Foundation into reality. In contemporary terms, you might say she “got it,” writing in 1926 that the role of a community foundation was not just to support “good work being done, but to blaze new highways of progress, to do things in educational, social and civic work which challenge the imagination and arouse the ambition of the community.”
In addition to performing the Foundation Committee’s customary grantmaking duties, to which she is said to have brought a deep understanding of human needs, independence of thought and sound judgment, Goff personally interviewed hundreds of young men and women who applied to the Cleveland Foundation for scholarship aid. She conscientiously helped to draft evaluations of each candidate to be considered by the Foundation Committee.
Frances Goff resigned from the committee in 1942 at the age of 78. She explained that she could not in good conscience serve beyond the time when her usefulness to the foundation was in any way impaired. Leonard P. Ayres, whose tenure on the board overlapped with that of Mrs. Goff, paid a heartfelt tribute to his esteemed colleague, stating, “In the 14 years during which Mrs. Goff and I served together on the Committee, the members were of two classes, and Mrs. Goff constituted the entire first class.”
Goff died on July 12, 1956, having mourned the loss of her daughter, Frances Goff Thoburn, two years earlier. She was survived by son William S. Goff and daughter Freda Goff Waterworth, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In-kind services provided to important civic committees
The loan of its director and offices expands the foundation’s useful roles.
Assistant to the Foundation’s First Four CEOs
Dorothy Ruth was, for many Clevelanders, the face of the Cleveland Foundation for more than 40 years. A graduate of Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University, Miss Ruth, as she was respectfully called by generations of grantees, was hired in 1927 as an administrative aide to director Carlton K. Matson. She served in the same capacity under Matson’s three successors and, even after her retirement on December 31, 1967, at age 73, remained an invaluable consultant to the foundation for several years. While on staff, Ruth had a larger scope of responsibilities than her title might have indicated. She reviewed all grant proposals, made follow-up phone calls, sent out grant notification letters and processed each of the hundreds of scholarships given to deserving college students over four decades, personally double-checking that the students received their checks.
In 1972, Dorothy Ruth Graham—she married late in life—established the Dorothy and Helen Ruth Fund at the foundation with a gift of $1,000. In part to honor the memory of her mother, Ruth contributed from $700 to $1,000 saved from her modest pension every year thereafter until her death in 1984. When awarded a cost-of-living increase of $600 in 1983, she contributed that sum as well. The Cleveland Foundation, Ruth explained in a letter, had “better use of it” than she.
Leyton E. Carter
The Cleveland Foundation board set high leadership expectations for its third director, Leyton E. Carter (see video), recommending that the former political science professor and municipal researcher lend his personal expertise to civic endeavors to a much greater extent than had been the case with his predecessors.
Within a few years of his appointment as director in 1928, Carter had become involved as a trustee or officer with an impressive list of area organizations, including the Adult Education Association, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland Music School Settlement, Cuyahoga County Home Rule Association, Ohio School Survey Commission and the YMCA. He taught at the YMCA’s Cleveland School of Technology, a predecessor of today’s Cleveland State University, for 34 years, staying on to conduct evening courses in government, business and statistics at Fenn College, the result of the Y’s 1930 restructuring of its advanced education program.
In 1931, Carter accepted the call to become grand jury foreman (although his agreement came with the understandable qualifier that he would serve “as long as he could”). He played his most significant leadership role in directing an effort to redevelop Cleveland’s slums that led to the Depression-era construction of the first public housing in America.
Carter’s path to the Cleveland Foundation was similar to that of the foundation’s first director. Like Raymond Moley, who was six years his senior, Carter was born in rural, late 19th-century Cuyahoga County (the Carter family farm in North Royalton was settled by Leyton’s great-grandfather in 1814). He studied at Oberlin College and did graduate work in political science and constitutional law at Columbia University before returning to northeastern Ohio to teach political science at Western Reserve University. Prior to joining the foundation, Carter directed the City of Cleveland’s Municipal Research Bureau. His sudden death in 1953 left the Cleveland Foundation leaderless.
The Cleveland Foundation’s endowment ranks as fourth largest, trailing New York, Chicago and Boston.
Four additional local banks become foundation trustees
The institution of a multiple trusteeship ensures a broader pool of potential donors, enhancing the foundation’s ability to weather the Depression.
Carl W. Brand
Board Chairman, 1942
Carl Widlar Brand (1880–1942), educated in Cleveland’s public schools, was a resourceful young man. To earn money to attend Spencerian Business College, he organized a retail coffee route and made deliveries via bicycle, clerked at a soda-water fountain, collected bills for a plumber, sold scorecards at baseball games, and worked as a doorboy at the Roadside Club, an establishment frequented by patrons of the nearby Glenville Race Track. After graduating from business school he went to work as a clerk for a railway company and studied law at night.
In 1898, Brand was earning $25 a week as manager of the Hoffman Hinge Company when his maternal uncle, Francis Widlar, asked him to join his coffee and spice packing business as a billing clerk at $12 a week. Despite the hefty pay cut, Brand sensed an opportunity and worked his way to the position of manager. In 1910, after his uncle’s death, he became president of the Widlar Company. At the 1920 convention of the National Coffee Roasters Association he was elected to a third consecutive term as that organization’s president. Brand’s commitment to civic pursuits was equally energetic. He served as president of the Children’s Fresh Air Camp and Hospital, director of the Cleveland Community Fund, and trustee of the Welfare Federation.
Fred S. McConnell
Board Chairman, 1942–1955
After graduating from Oberlin College in 1899, Fred S. McConnell (1876–1959) entered his father’s wool business in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and the following year married Grace Jenner. He succeeded to the presidency of the J. S. McConnell Wool Company upon his father’s death, but several years later decided to enter a different field: coal. In 1910, he became head of the Eastern Kentucky Coal Company, leaving seven years later for Cleveland at the behest of George Enos, founder and president of the Enos Coal Mining Company, which operated mines in Indiana. McConnell became president of Enos Coal after its founder’s death in 1940. He would also serve as president of the National Coal Association (1943–46) and the Bituminous Coal Institute (1943–51).
Grace had died in 1938, and in 1943 McConnell married the widowed Ann Bomberger Balkwill. She served on the St. Luke’s Hospital Women’s Board and on the senior board of Amasa Stone House. In addition to McConnell’s long service with the Cleveland Foundation, he was president of Karamu House during its early years and an elder of the Church of the Covenant.
First logo unveiled
The logo, a medallion engraved with a frontiersman carrying surveyor’s tools, bears the phrase, “Pioneer Community Trust.”
The Combined Fund is created to enable small gifts to the endowment
This innovative vehicle offers individuals of modest means a simple, affordable way to leave a charitable legacy.
Contributions received from a record-breaking 325 individuals
The endowment now comprises 50 named funds
Education, social services and health are the chief beneficiaries.
The bequest of $1.7 million from oil heiress Bertha Backus Hale would be equivalent to $12 million today.
J. Kimball Johnson
Chicago native J. Kimball Johnson enjoyed a pioneering career as the top Cleveland administrator for the federal government’s alphabet soup of new social service agencies before becoming the fourth director of the Cleveland Foundation. Having ultimately been transferred from Cleveland to the Chicago regional office of the newly created U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Johnson had sought the foundation’s directorship after Leyton Carter’s sudden death in 1953 in the hope of returning to his adopted city.
Johnson (known as Kim to his friends) had moved to Cleveland in 1911 at age 10. After graduating from Lakewood High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy at the Case School of Applied Science, followed by a master’s degree in civil engineering. His work as a civil engineer for a private contractor specializing in sanitary engineering projects eventually took him to Cuba, where he supervised the construction of a $5 million waterworks and treatment system for a Havana suburb.
Returning to Cleveland at the dawn of the Depression and faced with unemployment, he accepted a job as a caseworker, visiting needy families to determine if they qualified for direct relief from Cleveland’s Associated Charities. This social work experience, teamed with his civil engineering background, made him an obvious choice to help Cuyahoga County’s relief director launch a new federal employment program in 1933. The county’s Civil Works Administration would put 42,000 Clevelanders back to work, and Johnson’s managerial skills attracted attention in Washington, D.C. In 1937, he was recruited to become a field office manager for the Social Security Administration. During World War II, he served as regional chief of field operations for the country’s manpower mobilization effort. After the war, he was tapped to head a five-state regional office that administered all of the programs then operating under the auspices the Social Security Administration, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of Vocational Training.
The Cleveland Foundation recorded its greatest growth to date during the first decade of Johnson’s tenure as director. Between 1953 and 1963 the foundation’s endowment swelled from about $18 million to $65 million, an increase of more than 250 percent. Johnson had only his stalwart assistant, Dorothy Ruth, and a stenographer to help him process upward of 250 grants totaling in excess of $2 million annually. Buried under an ever-expanding mound of paperwork, he came to question the increasingly standardized nature of the foundation’s decision making about how best to distribute its undesignated income. With his extensive social service background, he grasped that the changing dimensions of the socioeconomic problems facing Cleveland required exceedingly innovative solutions.
Between 1953 and 1961, Cuyahoga County had lost a staggering 65,000 manufacturing jobs, and the hardest hit were those with the least seniority: African Americans, originally from the South, who had come north seeking factory jobs during and after each of the world wars. Cleveland’s welfare costs had skyrocketed 500 percent over the course of the 1950s, as the children of the idled workers themselves began to drift onto the relief rolls. As of 1961, two-thirds of the out-of-school youth between the ages of 16 and 21 living in the central city were unemployed. In the east-side neighborhood of Hough, the percent of unemployed youth stood at 79 percent.
Acting on Johnson’s recommendations, the Cleveland Foundation poured $400,000 on a project-by-project basis into programs for the residents of Hough alone between 1953 and 1961. Also to his credit, he recognized the need for new, coordinated approaches to solving the multitudinous and interrelated problems of the central city. Johnson regretted that the foundation’s astounding growth, although gratifying, gave him little time to think and act other than mechanically. He retired in 1967, the year after Hough erupted in violence, becoming a symbol, known around the world, for the anger of African Americans toward the inequities of opportunity their country afforded them. He graciously stepped down to allow a younger leader with a demonstrated record of success in fighting prejudice and inequality take the Cleveland Foundation in a bold new direction.
John L. McChord
Board Chairman, 1955–1956
Born in Lebanon, Kentucky, John Lisle McChord (1897–1956) graduated from Washington & Lee University (1918) and Harvard Law School (1922), serving in the military during World War I. He worked in the legal department of the Cleveland Automobile Club before joining the firm of Calfee, Fogg & White as a partner in 1927. For many years he was a member of the probate and trust committee of the Ohio State Bar Association, and in 1949–50 served as president of the Cleveland Bar Association. He was a director of Union Savings & Loan, vice president of the Family Service Association of Cleveland, and trustee of the Welfare Federation of Greater Cleveland. At age 58, he succumbed to a heart attack.
Ellwood H. Fisher
Board Chairman, 1956–1962
In the late 19th century, Manning Fisher worked for a grocer who owned 150 stores throughout New York City. Inspired by his boss’s success, in 1907 Fisher set out for Cleveland and opened his first grocery store on Lorain Avenue. His brother Charles soon joined him, and by 1916 the Fisher Brothers Company had 48 stores operating under the cash-and-carry system. Manning’s Dartmouth-educated son, Elwood Huff Fisher (1899–1975), would enter the family business as an assistant buyer.
By the time of his father’s death in 1931, Elwood Fisher had assumed the presidency of the supermarket chain. When the company celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1947, it was operating 211 stores. Fisher had married Marion Shupe, who served on the boards of Amasa Stone House, the YWCA and Camp Ho Mita Koda. He helped to found Bluecoats Inc., which provides aid to families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. He was also on the board of the Cleveland Zoological Society and was the first chairman of Fenn College, predecessor of Cleveland State University.
A course-changing philanthropic demonstration project is launched with foundation support
The Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation is created specifically to stimulate fresh approaches to solving Cleveland’s increasingly grave socioeconomic problems.
Harold T. Clark
Visionary Philanthropist Behind the Risk-Taking Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation
In the early 1960s, when he was in his mid-70s, attorney Harold Terry Clark set about to reinvigorate the grantmaking of the Cleveland Foundation. Clark had been a foundation board member during the 1940s and ’50s, but his reputation as the city’s most influential philanthropist came from another involvement. When Leonard C. Hanna Jr. died on October 5, 1957, he left Clark in charge of his trust fund. Hanna, scion of a Great Lakes iron ore- and coal-shipping fortune, had instructed that the fund be liquidated within five years of his death, with $33 million to be given immediately to the Cleveland Museum of Art. That left Clark, who had been Hanna’s personal attorney, with more than $40 million to distribute.
A member of the prominent Cleveland law firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (which he had joined in 1906 after graduating from Harvard Law School and left in 1938 to start his own practice in order to have more time to devote to community pursuits), Clark had interested a group of civic leaders in helping him organize a natural sciences museum for Cleveland in 1920. He later became president of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and of the art museum. With both museums located in University Circle, the home of the city’s most prestigious cultural, educational and medical institutions, it is not surprising that a first-time federation of Circle institutions aimed at turning the area into a veritable Acropolis was the beneficiary of one of the first Hanna grants made by Clark.
Clark’s interest in urban redevelopment was further spurred by a speech given in the early 1960s by Adolph W. Schmidt, president of the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust in Pittsburgh. Schmidt had described the role of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in rebuilding an area of downtown Pittsburgh known as the Golden Triangle. The Allegheny Conference’s “full mobilization of philanthropy,” according to Schmidt, had been one of its outstanding accomplishments. Harold Clark decided that he would try to engineer a similar miracle in Cleveland.
And so it was that, on November 8, 1961, the board of the Cleveland Foundation, in conjunction with the Hanna trust and four other area foundations, submitted to the Ford Foundation a formal grant request entitled “A Proposal for the Greater Cleveland Association of Foundations.” The document outlined four distinct roles for the proposed association, whose operating expenses were to be paid for by income from the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Special Purpose Fund that Clark had established earlier that year at the Cleveland Foundation with a $1 million gift. The purpose of the new fund—to help the community develop a “sound, efficient and forward-looking charitable program”—was couched in the broadest possible language so as to avoid raising alarm.
In the interim, Clark had persuaded the leaders of the city’s largest philanthropies to support his vision of creating a new foundation whose mission would be “to encourage research on and solutions of community social welfare problems of Cleveland, Ohio and its vicinity; to establish priorities for community action thereon; to make grants for research, pilot, experimental and other projects toward the solutions of such problems; and to encourage wise use of private philanthropic funds.”
Like everyone connected with the creation of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF)—a name change made to eliminate the presumption that the four smaller foundations that had endorsed GCAF were prepared to carry out the above-mentioned mission—Clark harbored large ambitions for the new philanthropy. In the end, no one’s expectations were to be fully met. Yet the demonstration project he initiated must be judged a success in that it re-established a tradition for philanthropic leadership of metropolitan affairs that today inspires not only the work of the Cleveland Foundation (with which the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation eventually merged), but also that of most other big-city community foundations. Learn more about GCAF’s impact.
Kent H. Smith
Indispensable Chairman of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation
The willingness to tackle intractable problems head-on exhibited in the early 1960s by the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF), whose merger with the Cleveland Foundation in 1967 reinvigorated the staid, 53-year-old philanthropy, was in keeping with the spirit of Fred Goff’s surveys. But GCAF would have found it difficult to carry out its research-action agenda had it not been for the support of its chairman, Kent H. Smith, whose leadership of GCAF’s reformist mission lent it instant credibility with the Cleveland establishment. The city’s “men of money”—as GCAF’s inventor Harold Clark termed the white-male CEOs who constituted Cleveland’s most powerful civic leadership group—were not going to be dictated to by GCAF director James (Dolph) Norton, a 30ish former academician with horn-rimmed glasses, a lanky build and a country-boy manner that masked Norton’s shrewdness and creativity.
Kent Smith seemed an improbable supporter of the socioeconomic reforms that GCAF initiated. He was the eldest of three sons of Dr. Albert W. Smith, a founder and director of the Dow Chemical Company and longtime chairman of the chemical engineering and mining engineering departments at the Case School of Applied Science. (The elder Smith had roomed with Herbert Dow as a Case undergraduate.) Kent himself was a Case-trained chemical engineer. In 1928, he and his brothers helped to found the Cleveland Graphite Oil Products Company, a lubricant manufacturer that the brothers built into the Lubrizol Corporation, a diversified chemical concern listed today among the Fortune 500. Smith was president of the firm—which had mushroomed during World War II after developing a lubricant that could be added to oil to prevent truck breakdowns—until the early 1950s, and chairman until 1959, when he retired and devoted himself full-time to civic affairs.
A Cleveland Foundation board member, Smith accepted a leadership role at the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation at the recommendation of the Ford Foundation, which had helped to launch GCAF in 1961 to model for the field a “forward-looking” urban agenda. Smith came into the office that GCAF shared with the Cleveland Foundation from his home in suburban Gates Mills nearly every day. He immersed himself in the details of GCAF’s administration, even taking appointments with grant seekers and writing evaluations of their proposals. Scarcely a Sunday would pass without GCAF associate director Barbara Rawson’s fielding a telephone call from Smith, who wanted to check on new developments.
Although a staunch Republican at the ballot box, Smith (who died in 1980 at age 85) embraced no political philosophy more fervently than pragmatism. “If there was an organized way of doing something better, rather than shooting fish in a barrel, Kent would try to do it,” said Joseph D. Pigott, a member of the Case Institute of Technology’s administrative staff during Smith’s tenure as acting president. Smith regarded the GCAF as the most efficacious way to solve the city’s bewildering array of problems. In fact, Smith’s willingness to go to bat for Dolph Norton’s ideas may have saved the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation from ending up as merely an interesting footnote in the annals of philanthropy.
Board Chairman, 1963–1971
Like his father, John Sherwin (1901–1991) started out in the banking business. After graduating from Yale (B.S., 1923), the native Clevelander joined the Union Trust Company and was elected vice president in 1927. The following year, he left to become president of Midland Bank; when Cleveland Trust absorbed Midland, he was appointed executive vice president. In 1941, Sherwin left banking to become a partner of the iron-ore producer Pickands Mather; in 1960, he was named president of that company (later becoming chairman of the board) and its affiliated Interlake Steamship Company. He served on the boards of numerous commercial and industrial concerns and was a director of the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Lake Carriers Association.
During his rise at Pickands Mather, John Sherwin had found time to be a member of the board of organizations as diverse as the Horace Kelly Art Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and Cleveland Clinic Foundation (he would ultimately serve as a trustee of the internationally known medical center for a record 57 years). He was preceded on the Cleveland Foundation board by his first cousin once removed, Belle Sherwin, a member of the first distribution committee (1917–24). In 1973, he and his wife, Frances Wick Sherwick, established the Sherwick Fund. Their son, John Jr., was appointed to the Cleveland Foundation’s distribution committee in 1996 and later served as its chairman.
During the foundation’s first 50 years, more than 1,600 generous donors have swelled the size of the endowment to $84 million.
First significant bequest for arts and culture received
Mechanical engineer and industrialist George C. Gordon and his wife Marion are the donors.
Board expanded from five to 11 to accommodate GCAF trustees
Malvin E. Bank
Outside Counsel and National Philanthropic Leader
Thompson Hine LLP, a business law firm established in Cleveland in 1911, celebrated its centenary by presenting the first Malvin E. Bank Award for Exemplary Client Service, named in honor of Thompson Hine’s distinguished specialist in federal income and estate tax matters, whose continuing service to the firm spans more than half its history. Bank’s tenure as general counsel for the Cleveland Foundation from 1967 to 2003 certainly reflects the utmost standards of loyalty and commitment to the client’s best interests, as does his service over the years as a director of more than 50 nonprofit businesses. Bank has also provided wise counsel and gentle guidance to the more than 30 charitable and educational institutions of which he has been a trustee.
Mal Bank grew up in a poor and tough neighborhood in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He graduated with highest honors from Pennsylvania State University and earned his LL.B. at Yale Law School. Entering the Army as a first lieutenant, Bank capably performed the duties of brevetted major during the Korean War and was awarded a Bronze Star. He knew no one when he arrived in Cleveland in 1957 to join Thompson, Hine & Flory. Today he is revered as one of the city’s most outstanding humanists and among the nation’s finest lawyers.
Bank played a major role in the evolving design of the Cleveland Foundation’s governance structure and corporations, starting with his behind-the-scenes work to enable the foundation’s merger with the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation in 1968. In 1982, he helped to facilitate the foundation’s first program-related investment, used to buy the $3.8 million Bulkley complex critical to the future of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square theaters—and Cleveland’s revival. Bank’s quiet backing of $5 million commitments to both neighborhood revitalization and public education improvement in the late 1980s was instrumental in winning board approval of these landmark “Special Initiatives.”
Bank has shaped the field of philanthropy in countless ways. Most notably, as a representative for the Council on Foundations, he negotiated with the U.S. Treasury Department and Congress about proposed 1976 revisions to rules and regulations related to charities. He authored an amicae brief for the Council on Foundations in the late 1990s that constituted a definitive history of the community foundation movement.
The Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation merges with the Cleveland Foundation
The union reinvigorates the older foundation’s grantmaking, swelling the philanthropic resources available locally for proactive problem-solving.
James A. Norton
James A. Norton (see video), the Cleveland Foundation’s fifth director, came to the position on January 1, 1968, after leading an affiliated philanthropy, the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF). As GCAF’s director for its intentionally brief, six-year lifespan, Norton pursued a grantmaking program aimed at solving the city’s toughest problems, in part to set an example of risk-taking innovation for the more conservative “parent” foundation.
In an era when racial tensions ran high in Cleveland, he was particularly effective in building productive coalitions between blacks and whites to address festering inequalities and inadequacies in education and housing. His courage, creativity and diplomacy persuaded the Cleveland Foundation’s board to absorb the staff and trustees of GCAF and install Norton at the foundation’s helm when his predecessor retired at the end of 1967.
During his five-year tenure as the Cleveland Foundation’s director, Norton institutionalized a commitment to carry on GCAF’s proactive problem-solving. Norton’s successor, Homer Wadsworth, had nothing but admiration for how the former academician with the Southern accent and his GCAF chairperson, retired industrialist Kent H. Smith, had smoothly arranged for the transfer of responsibility to build on the lessons learned from the GCAF demonstration project to the better-resourced older philanthropy. “After all,” as Wadsworth once noted, “they captured the Cleveland Foundation in the process.”
James Adolphus Norton, universally known by his nickname, Dolph, had traveled a long way from his roots in the small town of Haynesville (pop. 2,500) in northern Louisiana where he was born in 1922. Norton’s mother, Sue Annie, was a former schoolteacher. His father, George Norton, a salesman of farm implements, had started a hardware store in Haynesville after World War I, and the business had soon expanded into furniture and through that sideline (as is typical in many small towns) into undertaking.
Although Norton remembered hearing about lynchings and witnessing cross burnings as a boy, he also remembered his father more than once announcing that he, George Norton, would never join anything that required him to hide his face. Norton Sr. admirably put his money where his mouth was. When the Depression hit and his neighbors could no longer afford to pay for even a plain pine casket, George Norton came up with the idea of starting a cooperative insurance plan called the Claiborne-Webster (after the parishes involved) Christian Burial Association. At its height, 75,000 white families were enrolled, offsetting the losses Norton sustained in operating the Haynesville Burial Association, a perennially unprofitable service he ran for the benefit of the parish’s African Americans.
Dolph Norton emerged from childhood a liberal on the issue of race. His experience working as a page in the Louisiana House of Representatives one summer fueled his interest in good government. Norton earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University and, despite a passion for politics, ultimately decided to go into teaching. He studied for his second master’s at Harvard University’s Littauer School of Public Administration.
During World War II, Norton served as a radio operator in the U.S. Army Air Force. After the war ended, he became an instructor at the University of Texas and, in 1949, an assistant professor in the school of public administration at Florida State University. By 1952, Norton had completed his Ph.D. and become chairman of the division of instruction within the school, a position he held until 1956, when Case Institute of Technology president Keith Glennan persuaded him to move to Cleveland to head the nonprofit Metropolitan Service Commission (METRO), which Glennan chaired.
Although Norton had frequently consulted with municipalities and states on matters of public administration, METRO would be a bittersweet learning experience for him. While it provided a unique perspective on community affairs that would prove invaluable in his leadership of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation and later the Cleveland Foundation, METRO itself was not a success.
The commission had been established in the mid-1950s by Cleveland’s business and professional leaders, who saw metropolitan government as one key to the city’s revitalization. By conducting and disseminating expert studies on a variety of governmental services ranging from mass transportation to public health, METRO was expected to persuade county voters of the wisdom and efficiency of a form of governance that they had rejected at the polls three times before. The proposition went down to defeat once again in 1958, largely because African-American voters feared that they would lose the political clout they had slowly gained in Cleveland’s city council.
Norton accepted a position with Case as a professor of area development before convincing visionary civic leader Harold T. Clark, the originator of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation, that he was the right person to carry out the philanthropic demonstration project. Norton brought to that task a sophisticated understanding of the multitudinous problems facing Cleveland, a hard-won appreciation for the intricacies of Cleveland politics, and a network of business, government and civic contacts in both the white and black communities.
The Ford Foundation of New York, which had helped to fund GCAF with two grants totaling $2.5 million, later conducted an evaluation of GCAF’s work that found mixed results. But the evaluator implicitly praised Norton’s courageous leadership, observing: “Most of GCAF’s grants were at the cutting edge of contact with major social problems plaguing Cleveland and all cities. At the very least, GCAF has been in the forefront of concern and action, and it is possible that Cleveland would be even more enmeshed in social disarray were it not for GCAF.”
Norton resigned from the foundation in 1973 to accept Governor John J. Gilligan’s invitation to serve as chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. Having gone on to serve as interim president or chancellor at a number of colleges and universities, James A. Norton passed away in 2012 at the age of 87 in his retirement home of Charlottesville, Virginia. Three years before his death, Norton won an exceptional service award from the National Academy of Public Administration. U.S. senator and former Cleveland mayor George V. Voinovich affirmed the deserved nature of the award, saying on the Senate floor: “Dr. Norton’s career in public service stands as a shining example and testament to the high ideals of public administration.”
Norton’s pioneering philanthropic contributions are less well known. For a full account of Dolph Norton’s influence on the field, and on the Cleveland Foundation and Greater Cleveland, see pages 94–145, 147–156 and 160–205 of Rebuilding Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation’s 75th anniversary history.
The grant advances the prospects that the federation of Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University will create a great research university.
Raymond Q. Armington
Board Chairman, 1972–1973
“A knowledge of men is a great asset to anyone—engineer, executive or one in any profession.... In my estimation this is fifty per cent of a man’s education.” These sage words of advice were penned by the 21-year-old Raymond Q. Armington for an article that appeared in The Ohio State Engineer in 1928. “A cheerful word now and then will win friends and may help to win promotion,” he added. He graduated from OSU that same year with a degree in industrial engineering, and would later obtain a law degree from Pepperdine University. A native of Wickliffe, Ohio, Armington (1907–1993) joined his brothers in 1931 at the Armington Engineering Company, an offshoot of the horse-drawn dump wagon business that their father had founded in 1899. Euclid Road Machinery soon took over the company, and Armington served as vice president and general manager (1937–51) and then as president (1951–53). When General Motors acquired the company in 1953, Armington remained as general manager of the Euclid Division, a maker of massive earth-moving equipment used in mining and construction projects around the world. He left in 1960 to establish Triax Company, which eventually became Webb-Triax, a maker of automated storage and handling equipment.
Armington served on the boards of Case Western Reserve University, University Circle Inc., Greater Cleveland Association Foundation, Holden Arboretum, Hiram House, Hawken School and Lakeland Community College.
Barbara Haas Rawson
Interim CEO, 1973‒1974
Barbara Haas Rawson was a well-known volunteer active in Cleveland’s League of Women Voters, Citizens League and the PTA in her home suburb of Shaker Heights before she joined the staff of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF) in 1962. Although her title was administrative assistant to GCAF’s director James A. Norton (a relative newcomer to the community), Rawson also functioned as Norton’s sounding board and local historian. When GCAF, which had focused on devising new solutions to addressing intractable urban problems, merged with the Cleveland Foundation in 1967, and Norton became director of the latter organization, he encouraged Rawson to come with him to help revive the half-century-old community trust.
As assistant director of the Cleveland Foundation, Barbara Rawson continued to serve as Norton’s closest confidante and indispensable right hand. She also took pains to make the foundation more accessible to new, small or grassroots organizations. She wanted to ensure that, as she once put it, “no good idea or person escaped.” If a community group lacked the skills to put together a credible grant proposal, Rawson helped draft it. “Okay, let’s assume you get the money. Now what are you going to do Monday morning?” she would prompt.
The question became celebrated around the office for its directness and simplicity. Indeed, Rawson took it upon herself to mentor the growing staff of program associates and played a significant role in sharpening their analytical abilities. Three of these young talents—Bruce L. Newman, Roland H. Johnson and Timothy D. Armbruster—went on to head foundations.
When Norton resigned to take on new challenges at the Ohio Board of Regents in mid-1973, Rawson stepped into the role of interim director and served in that capacity until the arrival of Homer Wadsworth the following summer. The first woman in the country to hold the top executive position at a community foundation, Rawson became a national role model.
Though her time at the helm of the Cleveland Foundation was brief, she left a lasting legacy in recognizing early on the potential of the decaying vaudeville and movie theaters located in downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Unlike the hard-headed pragmatists heading up the city’s corporate and political sectors who had written off the theaters as useless, she supported an 11th-hour campaign led by public school administrator Ray Shepardson and Junior League of Cleveland president Elaine G. Hadden to save these still-ornate representatives of the city’s grand architectural heritage.
Once the bulldozers had been called off, it was Rawson who convinced the foundation’s board to fund a master redevelopment plan for Playhouse Square, another important step in the rebirth of this key downtown district. Long before the restored Playhouse Square theaters helped to bring about a cultural renaissance in Cleveland and contribute to the city’s economic revitalization, she understood the value of public incentives in spurring private redevelopment. Barbara Rawson died in 1990, having demonstrated that her vision, courage and determination were second to none.
Homer C. Wadsworth
Determining the doable was an early priority of the individual chosen after a national search to succeed Barbara Haas Rawson as the seventh director of the Cleveland Foundation. At age 60, Homer Clark Wadsworth (see video) was one of philanthropy’s most respected and progressive veterans. He devoted his first few years on the job to sizing up options before he “kicked up any dirt” by recommending major new programs to the foundation’s board. As president of the Kansas City (Missouri) Association of Trusts and Foundations from 1949 to 1974 (and for most of his 25 years there its sole program officer), Wadsworth maneuvered quietly and patiently behind the scenes to create opportunities to leverage positive change. He saw no reason to abandon this approach when he took up the reins of leadership at the Cleveland Foundation in January 1974.
Wadsworth went on to win board support for many of the initiatives that underpinned what Clevelanders came to think of as the city’s renaissance in the 1990s. During his decade-long tenure, the Cleveland Foundation helped the community peacefully prepare for desegregation of the public schools, return from municipal default, revitalize Playhouse Square, reclaim its industrialized waterfront as a recreational asset, strengthen and expand its arts institutions, and develop the capacity to analyze and act on regional and national socioeconomic trends. As had been the case in Kansas City, the ingredients of Wadsworth’s success as a change agent here were hard data and research, strategically planted suggestions, deftly timed seed grants, keen instincts for negotiation and his personal charm. He credited his accomplishments to “two-pants suits—because you have to out-sit people.”
Born in Pittsburgh in 1913, Wadsworth was at heart a hard-eyed realist whose world view had been shaped by tragedy. When Homer was eight, his father, a tugboat captain, died from the lingering effects of an accident that had crushed his leg. Homer and his sister grew up in a tough Pittsburgh neighborhood populated by low-income African Americans and whites. This experience contributed to his forward-looking social views, as did his awareness of his mother’s daily struggle to raise two children on limited resources, the calamitous effects of the Depression on average families, the woeful inadequacies of the public healthcare system to which his father had fallen victim, and the existence of racial and class prejudices against residents of poor neighborhoods such as his.
Graduating in 1935 from the University of Pittsburgh, Wadsworth pursued doctoral studies in philosophy and history at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota, respectively. In 1937, he took a summer job as an administrative assistant to Pittsburgh’s reform-minded mayor, Cornelius D. Scully. Wadsworth never returned to his graduate studies. He worked as executive secretary for the city planning commission before serving as a naval officer World War II. After the war, he worked for the City of Pittsburgh for eight years, most notably as head of the department of parks and recreation. In the late 1940s, he briefly served as vice president and dean of the New School of Social Research in New York before moving on to Kansas City, whose postwar revitalization he helped to bring about.
Wadsworth also influenced philanthropic policy and professional standards at the national level, especially in his promotion of the principles of accountability and full reporting. He helped to create the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, and the Foundation Center’s network of regional libraries and later served as either a board member of, or a trusted adviser to, these influential advocacy and support organizations. Even after retiring from the Cleveland Foundation in 1983, he extended philanthropy’s reach, as a consultant on the creation or development of community foundations in Puerto Rico and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.
Recognizing his pioneering contributions to the field, his peers deemed Wadsworth “the senior statesman in American philanthropy,” “one of the giants of the foundation field,” and “probably the most widely loved and respected figure in American philanthropy today.” “Ask anyone to name the top 10 most significant leaders in the field,” Brian O’Connell, the founding president of Independent Sector, once observed. “The lists would all be different, but Homer would be on them all.”
Read an extended profile of Homer C. Wadsworth, who died in 1994 after losing a heroic battle with lung cancer at the age of 81.
H. Stuart Harrison
Board Chairman, 1974–1978
In 1977, H. Stuart Harrison (1909–1980) retired as chairman of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, which under his leadership had grown from a moderate-size firm to one of the largest independent ore producers. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in finance and economics during the depths of the Depression, Harrison took a job as a steelworker in the Corrigan-McKinney Steel plant where his father was an executive. He switched to the banking profession and landed a job as a steel industry analyst for an investment firm in New York. One of Harrison’s reports so impressed the president of Cleveland-Cliffs that he hired him to manage the company’s investments. From 1937 to 1960 Harrison rose through the ranks to president, then to chief executive officer in 1961 and board chairman in 1974.
Harrison’s civic activities were legion. He served as chairman of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, president of the Children’s Aid Society, president of University School and the Yale Scholarship Committee and vice chair of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. He co-founded and chaired the Businessmen’s Interracial Committee, sat on the finance committee of the Cleveland Institute of Art, and served as chair of University Circle Inc., vice chair of University Hospitals, and trustee of the Federation for Community Planning, United Way Services and Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.
Cultural affairs becomes a full-fledged program area
Stanley C. Pace
Board Chairman, 1979–1985
Stan Pace was vice chairman of TRW Inc. and later chairman and chief executive officer of General Dynamics Corporation. A native of Waterview, Kentucky (his mother was the first woman elected sheriff in the state), he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1943. He would later earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. During World War II, Pace flew 39 combat missions over Europe; he was shot down in 1944 and spent the next 10 months in German hospitals and prison camps. In 1954, he joined Thompson Products (later known as TRW) as general manager of its automobile parts plant in Los Angeles, and the following year came to Cleveland to manage Thompson’s jet engine division. In 1977, he was elected president and chief operating officer, and set about expanding TRW’s space and defense products lines. In 1985, on the brink of retirement, Pace was asked to join the embattled General Dynamics, the nation’s leading military contractor, which had been charged with pervasive misconduct in the awarding of government defense contracts. After getting the company back on track, he retired in 1990.
Pace served on the national boards of the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement. He was a Cleveland Council commissioner for five years and helped to found the Greater Cleveland Roundtable. In 1984, he chaired United Way of Greater Cleveland’s annual fund drive, and in 1988 he was appointed U.S. national chairman for United Nations Day. He is an honorary director of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The Ethics Resource Center in Arlington, Virginia, annually bestows the Stanley C. Pace Leadership in Ethics Award to recognize accomplishments in ethical business management.
Robert E. Eckardt, DR PH
Accomplished Grantmaker and Executive Vice President
Robert E. Eckardt, executive vice president of the Cleveland Foundation, has worn many hats during his long and accomplished career with the foundation. Eckardt joined the program staff in 1982 with a master’s degree in public health and a certificate in gerontology from the University of Michigan (U of M), and he earned his doctorate in public health at U of M during his rise to the position of senior program officer.
In the fields of health and aging, he initiated several model demonstration projects, such as Successful Aging; helped to coordinate the community’s response to the AIDS crisis; and nurtured cooperation within Cleveland’s world-renowned but highly competitive medical institutions (see the Cleveland Foundation Study Commission on Medical Research and Education). Eckardt also conducted the foundation’s initial study of environmental issues and drafted the strategy for environmental grantmaking, which began in 1990 as part of his program portfolio.
On the national level, Eckardt sparked the creation of professional associations aimed at helping philanthropic organizations share expertise and resources, set standards and speak with a collective voice. Among those he helped to establish and lead are Grantmakers in Aging, Funders Concerned about AIDS and Grantmakers in Health. Eckardt also shares his wisdom as a consultant to foundations and nonprofits around the country that have sought him out for guidance on program development, strategic grantmaking and evaluation. Among the new administrative responsibilities he began to assume in the mid-1990s was management of the Cleveland Foundation’s first systematic program evaluation effort.
Today, Eckardt’s most important role is to provide overall direction for the foundation’s grantmaking. Acting in that capacity at the behest of the foundation’s executive director Steven A. Minter and Minter’s successor, Ronald B. Richard, Eckardt collaborates with board, staff and community leaders to pinpoint the region’s critical needs and leverage resources to help meet them. He is frequently the go-to person for special programmatic assignments.
Eckardt led the foundation’s response to the 2008 economic downturn, for example. He and the program staff held a series of community conversations with some 250 charitable organizations to learn how grantees were faring and how the foundation could help them weather the crisis. Monies were subsequently redirected from the foundation’s major capital grants efforts to immediate needs. Eckardt then worked with grantees to streamline and shorten grant-processing times in order to distribute awards more quickly. A survey conducted in 2010 by the Center for Effective Philanthropy numbered the Cleveland Foundation among the funders perceived by their grantees to have been the most helpful during this difficult time.
Having been promoted to executive vice president by Ronn Richard in 2010, Eckardt now helps to oversee all aspects of the foundation’s management.
In recognition of the high standard of philanthropic leadership he has set, Robert E. Eckardt received the Council on Foundations’ 2010 Distinguished Grantmaker Award, one of the field’s most prestigious and respected honors.
Foundation offices relocated to the Hanna Building on Playhouse Square
The move is a symbolic gesture of support for the ongoing redevelopment of Cleveland’s theater district.
Steven A. Minter
Steven A. Minter would be given the opportunity of a lifetime in mid-career to help rebuild his native region. In 1984, at age 46, he became the eighth chief executive of the Cleveland Foundation. Minter was the first African American in the country to rise to such a position with a community foundation.
As executive director and president of the Cleveland Foundation from January 1, 1984, to June 30, 2003, Minter successfully focused his staff and board on the goal of maintaining the organization’s standing as the country’s premier community foundation in the rapidly changing philanthropic landscape. The organization Minter inherited was nationally regarded for its grantmaking innovations and civic leadership, the legacy of previous foundation directors Homer C. Wadsworth and James A. Norton.
Minter deepened the foundation’s involvement with what he came to call the “enduring issues” of public education, jobs, housing and health care—sectors whose deficiencies and inefficiencies significantly affected the well-being of the region’s poor and minority citizens, from whose numbers he had risen. And, by stimulating the board to approve large-scale commitments to priority initiatives, he advanced the effort, begun by his predecessors, to ensure that the foundation was always a nimble, resourceful and potent agent working to effect progressive socioeconomic change in Greater Cleveland.
Minter assembled a team of well-qualified senior program officers to carry out the foundation’s strategic agenda and set high expectations for their performance. Also notable was his decision to place Susan Lajoie Eagan in charge of strategic planning and programmatic activities. Eagan came to the foundation in 1980 with a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her ascent to associate director and then executive vice president was propelled by a fine analytical mind.
Eagan and Minter evolved into the classic inside/outside program team. “Steve was big picture, connect the dots,” explained Leslie A. Dunford, the foundation’s vice president for corporate governance and administration. “Susan worked out the nitty-gritty details with the program staff.”
The Cleveland Foundation’s endowment stood at $300 million when Minter took over. Observing that the endowments of peer foundations had benefited from their encouragement of partnerships with living donors, Minter immediately moved to create donor-advised funds. He also worked diligently with the foundation’s investment subcommittee and the trustee banks to maximize the endowment’s financial performance. As a result of his determined focus on asset development throughout his two decades as chief executive, $1 billion was added to the foundation’s endowment from three sources: bequests; promotion of supporting organizations, donor-advised funds and organizational endowments; and market performance. Consequently, grantmaking income increased by 450 percent during his tenure.
Born in Akron, Ohio, the eldest of eight children of a former national Golden Gloves boxing champion, Steve Minter grew up in a succession of small Ohio communities, as his father sought to advance the family’s fortunes by moving from one job to another. Despite the family’s continual uprooting, Minter excelled in school and was active in sports, student government and the band—extracurricular activities that his mother encouraged. It was at the prompting of his teachers that Minter decided to attend college, becoming the only child in his family to graduate from a four-year institution of higher learning.
Despite an impressive record of academic achievement and campus leadership at Baldwin Wallace College, a small Methodist school near Cleveland, after graduating in 1960 Minter was unable to land a job as a high school coach after applying to more than three dozen area school systems. The secretary to the president of Baldwin Wallace empathized with the plight of this talented African American struggling to break into a segregated job market. She put him in touch with her sister who worked as the secretary to the director of the Cuyahoga County Welfare Department, where he was hired as a caseworker. Within nine years Minter had earned a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Applied Social Sciences and become the department’s director.
In 1971, Minter received a call from the governor of Massachusetts that resulted in his appointment as commissioner of public welfare for the state. He turned down an offered second term, believing it was time to make a career change.
Having promised his wife, Dolly, to relocate to a community in which they would be content to live for a minimum of 12 years, time enough to see their three daughters through high school, the family returned to Cleveland, where Minter accepted a position as a program officer at the Cleveland Foundation in 1974. Mentor Homer Wadsworth named him associate director in 1979. Minter took an unpaid leave from the foundation in 1980 to serve as undersecretary—the no. 2 person—in the Carter administration’s newly created U.S. Department of Education. His promise to Dolly and his sense that there was still much to accomplish in Cleveland motivated his return to the foundation after a year in D.C.
As he grew in stature, Minter did not forget his kinship with the disadvantaged and poor. The Cleveland Foundation under his direction would perpetuate his predecessor’s interest in institution-building, while quietly but firmly insisting on minority access to and participation in the city’s institutional life. A mediator by temperament—perhaps because he had straddled two worlds for so many years—he also worked hard to expand the organization’s ability to convene a disparate group of leaders, experts and funders around important urban problems and serve as a catalyst toward their solution.
Internally, he forged a new path in institutionalizing a collaborative relationship between the board and staff. Because program officers do the legwork on grants, Minter perceived that the board of directors often felt that they were merely rubber-stamping others’ decisions. He envisioned a far more active role for the trustees. He wanted to see their intelligence and experience brought to bear on major policy decisions. Immediately upon his appointment, Minter began to search for a way to increase the interplay of committee and staff so all would be, in his phrase, “reading from the same page.”
Rather than dictating his vision for the organization, which would serve only to lessen the board’s sense of engagement, Minter guided the foundation through the development of its first formal strategic plan, a process that actively involved both board and program officers in building a consensus about the priorities that should govern the foundation’s grantmaking. Three years into Minter’s tenure, the foundation made sustained, multimillion-dollar commitments to “Special Initiatives” in the areas of public school improvement, neighborhood revitalization and lakefront development.
Roughly every five years thereafter, the foundation re-evaluated the key challenges and opportunities facing Greater Cleveland, reconsidered the appropriate roles the foundation could play in addressing challenges, and recalculated the resources needed to make a measurable difference. In his final two years, Minter initiated a governance restructuring that streamlined grantmaking procedures and thus freed up board members to assume an even broader portfolio of policy-making functions.
Many in the field considered Steve Minter to be the most successful of the 700 chief executive officers of U.S. community foundations. On the eve of his retirement, the Council on Foundations honored him with the Distinguished Grantmaker Award for his lifetime achievement in philanthropy.
Read an extended profile of Minter, who since 2003 has been an executive-in-residence at Cleveland State University (CSU) and a fellow of the Center for Nonprofit Policy and Practice at CSU’s Levin College of Urban Affairs. Listen to Minter’s reflections on his career in philanthropy (see video).
Economic development becomes a full-fledged program area
Richard W. Pogue
Board Chairman, 1985–1989
Dick Pogue became acting managing partner of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue on March 1, 1984, and managing partner one year later. During his years of service in these roles, the firm grew significantly and for the first time entered international markets. A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 10 Pogue moved with his family to Washington, D.C., where his father would become chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board. He graduated from Cornell University in 1950 and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1953. After a three-year stint in the Office of the Judge Advocate General at the Pentagon, he arrived in Cleveland in 1957 to join Jones Day. He retired from the firm in 1994, signed on as senior advisor at Dix & Eaton, then rejoined Jones Day in 2004.
Pogue began his civic service in Cleveland as a volunteer at the Goodrich Settlement House working with teenage boys, and eventually became board president. He has served as chairman of many organizations, including the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, University Hospitals, City Club, Business Volunteers Unlimited, Greater Cleveland Roundtable and Presidents’ Council Foundation. He chaired Cleveland’s 1989 United Way campaign and served as co-chairman of the city’s 1996 Bicentennial Commission. In the field of education, Pogue has served as a trustee of Case Western Reserve University, University of Akron and Cleveland Institute of Music. He was chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education and the Economy in 2003–04 and later was a founding trustee of the Business Alliance on Higher Education and the Economy. In 2009, Pogue was named board chair of the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland. He currently serves as a trustee of Philanthropy Ohio.
Donor-advised funds established
The foundation formalizes its commitment to serving living donors.
“Special Initiatives” launched to revitalize schools, neighborhoods and the lakefront
Sustained, multimillion-dollar commitments are now seen as central to the foundation’s ability to make a difference.
John J. Dwyer
Board Chairman, 1989–1992
Jack Dwyer (1917–2005) was the retired head of the Oglebay Norton Company; he led the mining and lake transportation concern for 12 years until 1982. Born in Gary, Indiana, he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1944 and came to Cleveland to work with the firm of Thompson, Hine & Flory. He joined Oglebay Norton two years later, and in 1970 became the company’s president and chief executive officer. After Dwyer left Oglebay Norton, he returned to Thompson Hine as a partner. As chairman of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association in the early 1980s, he helped bring together government and corporate officials as the city emerged from default. He also served as a director of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.
Dwyer was chairman, president or trustee of organizations that included the Red Cross, United Way, Federation for Community Planning and Musical Arts Association. He was on the boards of University Hospitals and St. Vincent Charity Hospital Development Fund Company. He was a life trustee of Notre Dame College and a major fundraiser and trustee for his alma mater, DePauw University (class of 1939), and also served as a trustee of John Carroll University and Laurel and Glen Oak schools. He was the founding chairman of the Cleveland Education Fund.
Sustained grantmaking begins in the field of the environment
Alfred M. Rankin Jr.
Board Chairman, 1992–1996
Alfred Rankin is chairman, president and chief executive officer of NACCO Industries and Hyster-Yale Materials Handling, and chairman of Hamilton Beach Brands, The Kitchen Collection and North American Coal Corporation. Before joining NACCO, he served as vice chairman, chief operating officer and director of Eaton Corporation, and with McKinsey & Company. He is a director and member of the executive committee of the National Association of Manufacturers and serves as trustee and chairman of the board of University Hospitals of Cleveland, advisory chairman of the board of the Cleveland Museum of Art, trustee of the Musical Arts Association and trustee emeritus of Case Western Reserve University. In addition to his past service as board chair of the Cleveland Foundation, Rankin is a former member of the boards of trustees of Oberlin College, the Holden Arboretum and the World Resources Institute, and former board president of Hathaway Brown. A former director and chairman of the board of the Fourth District Federal Reserve Bank, Rankin holds a B.A. in economics and a J.D. from Yale University.
Charles A. Ratner
Board Chairman, 1996–2000
Charles A. Ratner is chairman of the board of Forest City Enterprises Inc. He served as the company’s chief operating offer from 1993 to 1995, and then as president and chief executive officer for 16 years. During his tenure as CEO, Ratner guided Forest City on a growth trajectory that saw the company’s real estate assets at cost increase from $2.4 billion to $11.8 billion, earnings before depreciation and taxes from $82 million to $309.9 million, and market capitalization from $330 million to more than $3 billion.
An active member of the community, Ratner serves on the boards of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Musical Arts Association and United Way Services. He is on the board of the Jewish Community Federation and a trustee of the Mandel Associated Foundations and David and Inez Myers Foundation. Ratner is the former chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland and the United Way, and past president of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. He graduated from Colgate University and New York University School of Law.
Spending policy revised to increase income available for grantmaking
The new formula for calculating available income is based on the endowment’s performance over time.
Catharine Monroe Lewis
Board Chair, 2000–2003
Cathy M. Lewis has played a leadership role with many Cleveland organizations. She was a member of the Citizens Committee on AIDS/HIV, which devised Cleveland’s strategy for AIDS prevention, education and service delivery, and chaired its successor organization, the AIDS Funding Collaborative. She serves on the board of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love and was on the advisory committee for the Center for Global Child Health at Case Western Reserve University.
A graduate of Smith College, Lewis has served as president of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, vice chair of the Baldwin Wallace College board of trustees, and board member of the Gund Foundation. She received the Creative Philanthropy Award from the Women’s Community Foundation, the YWCA’s Career Women of Achievement Award and the March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award for Community Service. In 2007, she received the Ohio Philanthropy Award from Ohio Grantmakers (now Philanthropy Ohio).
Rolling grant reviews replace quarterly decision-making
More timely review procedures speed the disbursement of funds to grantees.
Board expanded from 11 to 15 directors
A larger board gives the foundation the benefit of a greater range of perspectives.
Board responsibilities refocused on identification of programmatic priorities
John Sherwin Jr.
Board Chairman, 2003–2006
Jack Sherwin is the president of Mid-Continent Ventures Inc. Prior to founding the company in 1985, he held various positions with Diamond Shamrock Corporation, domestically and overseas. Active in the community, Sherwin serves on the board of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and is a former board member of the Holden Arboretum and John Carroll University, a life trustee of Hawken School, and a trustee emeritus of the Westminster School and the Great Lakes Museum of Science, Environment and Technology. He has had a long involvement with the Cleveland Foundation, helping to establish the Lake-Geauga Fund in 1987 and serving as president of the Sherwick Fund, the nation’s first supporting organization affiliated with a community foundation, which was created by his father in 1969. Sherwin currently serves as an external advisor to the Cleveland Foundation’s audit committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from John Carroll University.
Ronald B. Richard
Ronald B. Richard’s first day of work at the Cleveland Foundation on July 1, 2003, represented a sort of homecoming. As a child, Ronn had enjoyed spending several summers in Cleveland, visiting with his cousins in suburban Beachwood. Deepening his sentimental attachment to the city, his parents had met as teenagers in the 1940s at Bellefaire, an orphanage operated by Cleveland’s oldest Jewish social service agency. While Ronn’s connection to the community was a bonus, it was the unusual breadth of his professional experiences that figured prominently in his appointment as the foundation’s ninth chief executive.
Ronn’s first career was with the U.S. Foreign Service, which he joined in 1983. Because he had spent a year abroad in Japan during college and spoke fair Japanese, he was assigned to Japanese-language school in Yokohama and then to his first posting in Tokyo. He later worked in the American Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe and went on to serve as a desk officer for North Korean, Greek and Turkish affairs, respectively, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.
In 1988, Ronn accepted an invitation to join the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company (Panasonic), the 13th largest corporation in the world at that time. During his 13 years with Panasonic, he filled a variety of senior executive management roles. Prior to joining the foundation, Ronn had directed a venture capital fund established by the CIA to ensure that America’s intelligence community had access to the latest information technologies.
The Cleveland Foundation’s board of directors recognized that Ronn was an unorthodox candidate. Although he had knowledge of the nonprofit sector from his service on the board of trustees of Spelman College and on the board of advisors of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, his previous experience with philanthropy was limited to oversight of Panasonic’s corporate donations program and leadership of a United Way campaign. The Cleveland Foundation board valued the fact that Ronn, with his wealth of expertise in global affairs, business management, sales and marketing, R&D and technology transfer, would bring “fresh eyes” to the challenge of helping Greater Clevelanders test new solutions to enduring urban problems. He also had a proven ability to identify and seize new opportunities. (See a full description of Ronald B. Richard’s credentials.)
Entering his 11th year as the foundation’s president and CEO in the summer of 2003, Ronn Richard had indeed enhanced the institution’s reputation as one of the most daringly innovative community foundations in the U.S. field. During his tenure, the Cleveland Foundation has broken new ground in making an all-in commitment to fixing Cleveland’s public education system, with the goal of eliminating all failing schools within a six-year time span … marshaling federal, state and local resources for a visionary plan to build a high-growth industrial cluster centering on wind energy … and devising a poverty-reduction program with the potential to create hundreds, perhaps someday even thousands of wealth-building jobs for city residents by tapping into the procurement streams of major nonprofit organizations.
Under Ronn’s leadership, the Cleveland Foundation has supported international business attraction efforts, aggressive recruitment of highly skilled immigrants and residencies by artists presenting the best of world culture—all in an effort to inspire Cleveland, whose economy has been battered by global competition, to reinvent itself as a truly global city. In its annual reports and other public forums over the past decade, the foundation has also exerted its moral authority more forthrightly than ever before, taking impassioned stands in support of the right of every child to attend an excellent school, environmental protectionism and equality for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. “If we can’t be bold,” Ronn asks rhetorically, “who can?”
If Ronn’s years as a business executive have contributed to his understanding that one of a community foundation’s fundamental roles is to provide high-risk social venture capital, his deep commitment to social justice derives from searing childhood experiences. Born in 1956 in Rockville, Maryland, Ronald Richard grew up “below the Mason-Dixon line,” the fourth of five children in a household headed by secular Jewish liberals.
His father, Daniel, a former Marine with a strong entrepreneurial streak that prompted him to start a series of increasingly significant businesses, instilled in his son an iron-rod sense of right and wrong. His mother, Annette, who while rearing five children earned a bachelor’s degree in history by attending school at night, went on to obtain a master’s degree in international relations and teach Advanced Placement history courses at highly regarded high schools. Ronald inherited her love of reading and learning and her intense interest in history and diplomacy.
Moving up the economic ladder to Potomac, Maryland, the Richards wanted their youngest three children to attend an integrated school. Nearby Travilah Elementary had a student body comprised largely of extremely poor children, black and white, many of whom became Ronald’s good friends. Some of his pals were clearly talented kids, denied a shot at success by America’s inequitable system of public education, which far too often consigned poor and minority students to inferior schools. Later Ronald attended a predominately white junior high, where he had to fight back against anti-Semitic bullying and taunting about his attendance at Travilah. He never forgot his early encounters with racial and ethnic discrimination.
His determination to be a force for social progress and harmony also developed precociously. Spying a magazine cover graphically depicting racial violence in the former Belgian Congo when he was five or six, Ronald told his mother that it wasn’t right for people to hurt one another and informed her that he wanted to do something about it. Annette Richard replied that peacemaking was the responsibility of diplomats. “That’s what I want to be,” Ronald replied.
Lacking sophisticated career counseling, he decided the study of history would be excellent preparation. After graduating from high school, he majored in U.S. history at Washington University in St. Louis. A college romance with a Japanese-American woman led him to spend his senior year studying at the Center for Japanese Studies in Nagoya. By now Ronn appreciated that his chosen career path required a master’s degree in international relations, which he earned from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Ronn passed the extremely competitive foreign service entry exam and a yearlong security clearance check, during which time he worked at the Japan Society in New York. During his Foreign Service introductory course, he met his future wife, Elizabeth (Bess) Rodriguez. They are the parents of two children.
After completing nine months of intensive Japanese-language training, Ronn was assigned to the American embassy in Tokyo as an economic officer. His work to facilitate bilateral trade agreements introduced him to the head of R&D at Matsushita Electric, who many years later persuaded Ronn to leave the diplomatic corps and help the corporation internationalize its top management.
Panasonic paid more than lip service to its motto, “Technology for the Benefit of Mankind.” During his tenures as president of Panasonic’s R&D operations, its home and commercial products sales division, and its mergers and acquisitions arm, Ronn does not recall having many discussions about how to build shareholder value. Strategic planning focused on how to develop or acquire new technologies with the potential to meet emerging societal needs and turn those technologies into products that could be successfully sold in a competitive global marketplace.
Ronn brought well-honed skills at identifying and actualizing beneficial new ideas to his leadership of the Cleveland Foundation. A year before his arrival, the foundation had completed a governance reorganization in which the size of the board of directors was expanded in order to gain a broader base of community perspectives. The board’s role was also restructured. Less board time was to be devoted to reviewing and approving grant requests, and more time was to be spent determining programmatic priorities. Ronn soon perceived that the program staff structure also required revamping if the foundation was to take full advantage of the board’s input.
Ronn collaborated with Robert E. Eckardt, soon to be appointed the foundation’s executive vice president, on the formation of a responsive grantmaking team comprised of the foundation’s program officers and associates. The team would henceforth assume responsibility for evaluating the 3,000-plus grant requests received annually. The reorganization eliminated specific assignments for mid-level program staff so that they could gain experience in multiple fields and replaced quarterly grant awards with rolling approvals. These changes enabled the foundation to carry out its traditional role of supporting community aspirations even more effectively. Meanwhile, the senior program officers were liberated. Now, as Ronn had envisioned, they could focus their time, energies and intellects exclusively on finding creative new solutions to the region’s most intractable problems.
In keeping with their redefined role, the senior program officers were given a new title: program director. Not only were program directors responsible for the design of board-directed strategic initiatives, Ronn expected them to roll up their sleeves and do whatever was necessary to ensure the initiative’s success. Over time, he filled these proactive positions with individuals who had hands-on experience effecting positive change in the priority areas selected by the board: youth development, successful aging, public school improvement, neighborhood and housing revitalization, and economic development.
The Cleveland Foundation had a long record of productive engagement with these pressing issues. In harnessing the undivided attention of senior staff with demonstrable skills as program managers and change-agents, the Richard administration added new muscle to the foundation’s ability to formulate and implement fresh approaches to enduring challenges. Ronn’s receptivity to innovative or novel ideas and high degree of comfort with calculated risk taking empowered the program directors to think big and aim high.
Drawing on his background in international relations and the foundation’s clout as an anchor institution, Ronn personally rallied the government, nonprofit and for-profit leaders whose active involvement was essential to an initiative’s success. He often remained engaged in important new undertakings as a volunteer chairperson. Upon Ronn’s recommendation, the foundation’s board proved willing to step up significantly the provision of start-up and sustaining funds. Once considered historic, multimillion-dollar grants in support of board-directed initiatives or critical demonstration projects became common, and the traditional three- to five-year time frame for special initiatives was extended as long as progress warranted.
With foundation-inspired public-private partnerships achieving measurable progress on a number of important fronts—ranging from the creation of high-performing schools to the acceleration of high-potential business start-ups—Ronn Richard’s leadership and judgment began to attract local and national recognition. Ohio governor Ted Strickland tapped Ronn to oversee the expenditure of federal stimulus funds as the state’s infrastructure czar, a volunteer position he held from January 2009 to November 2010. Earlier in 2010, the bimonthly Nonprofit Times, one of the sector’s leading magazines, included Ronn in its annual list of America’s most influential nonprofit executives.
Responsive grantmaking team formed to review mounting requests
Senior program officers promoted to program directors
The new title reflects new responsibilities for leading strategic initiatives identified by the board.
Jacqueline F. Woods
Board Chair, 2006–2008
Jacqueline F. Woods is the former president of AT&T Ohio. She serves on the boards of trustees of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Playhouse Square Foundation, Muskingum University, Kent State University and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. During her decade of service to the Cleveland Foundation, which included a term as board chair, Woods helped to advance the foundation’s work in the areas of economic development, globalization and alternative energy. She holds a master’s degree from the Executive M.B.A. program at Northwestern University and a B.A. in psychology from Muskingum College.
Board Chairman, 2008–2011
David Goldberg is a partner in Edgerton Investments, which owns and manages real estate and other investments in Ohio and Texas. He spent the majority of his career with AmTrust Bank, formerly Ohio Savings Bank, where he retired as chairman of the board in 2009. An alumnus of Shaker Heights High School, he graduated from Ohio State University (B.S., 1966) and Case Western Reserve University School of Law (J.D., 1969).
Goldberg is a past chair of Neighborhood Progress Inc. and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, two organizations that drive economic development. He serves on the boards of University Hospitals, The Diversity Center and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which directs aid for nonsectarian relief, rescue and humanitarian work, and is a life director of the Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland. In 2003, along with other members of Cleveland’s Jewish and Palestinian communities, he formed Ishmael & Isaac to help victims of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
Charles P. Bolton
Board Chairman, 2011–2013
Charles P. Bolton is chairman of Brittany Stamping, a Cleveland private investment firm that owns four manufacturing companies, and Polychem Corp., a Mentor manufacturer of extruded polypropylene and polyester strapping used in commercial packaging. He is the former director of the Ohio Department of Development’s Office of International Trade and a former member of the Ohio Senate. Bolton is a trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Musical Arts Association, the Payne Fund and the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation; an honorary trustee and former chairman of the board of Case Western Reserve University; and a life trustee of Hawken School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.
Assets recover from the impact of the Great Recession
The foundation’s $1.88 billion endowment propels its ranking as one of the top five largest community trusts in America.
First $10 million grant, the largest to date
To commemorate its upcoming centenary, the foundation makes a historic gift in support of Case Western Reserve University’s new medical school.
James A. Ratner
Board Chairman, 2013–Present
James A. Ratner is an executive vice president and director of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., and chairman and CEO of Forest City Commercial Group, the commercial real estate development and management division of Forest City. The company emphasizes the development of urban retail and mixed-use properties and nonconventional regional and lifestyle centers. Before joining Forest City, Ratner spent five years at the Nasher Company, a privately owned real estate development firm in Dallas, where he was responsible for supervising new development projects.
Ratner holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from Harvard University. He serves as emeriti trustee at Case Western Reserve University and is a member of the board of trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Urban Land Institute and PlayhouseSquare Foundation.