Highlights April 20, 2000



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Where, oh where, did the Fenn money go?


Many state colleges, such as Akron, Youngstown, Toledo and Cincinnati,were started with endowments from the major city universities they once were.

Cleveland State University was not quite as lucky. Founded as a state university in 1965 from Fenn College, a private institution, CSU opened its doors as a state college with an endowment of $0.

The Fenn College endowment was originally started in the late 1920s with a bequest of $100,000 from the estate of influential Cleveland businessman Sereno Peck Fenn, according to Bill Becker, university archivist. “When the state took over the school, they never tried to get, nor did they ever receive, the endowment,” Becker said. “They took over the school, the employees and the educational program of the college.”

Those who were around in 1965 remember well that time of transition. Now 88 years old, William Patterson saw a lot of changes during his 35-year tenure at Fenn/CSU. Starting out as a mathematics professor at Fenn College in 1936, he went on to become dean of the College of Engineering, provost of both Fenn and CSU, and finally CSU budget officer before his retirement in 1971.

At the time of the transfer, Patterson was provost. As such, he was requested by Fenn trustee Paul S. Dickey to prepare a constitution for an educational foundation along the lines of a similar fund at Purdue University. “The purpose of the proposed foundation was to undergird the academic work of the new university by providing financial assistance to its students, faculty and staff as they pursued their educational goals,” Patterson said.

The foundation was to be funded by monies controlled by the Fenn College Board of Trustees after negotiations with the CSU Board of Trustees had been completed. Patterson called it the Cleveland State University Educational Foundation and the board accepted it exactly as he wrote it, but for one minor change. “I was flabbergasted when I found out they passed it and it was called the Fenn Educational Foundation instead,” he said.

Patterson said there were several reasons why Fenn board members didn’t want CSU to have control of the funds, but named only one. “Many of the Fenn trustees enjoyed a long association with the college and with one another and may have desired to have the board continue to play a role in higher education in the city, Patterson said. “In my opinion,” he added, “when the negotiations with the CSU board were completed, the funds under control of the Fenn board should either been given to CSU to provide financial assistance to its students and faculty, or to the Cleveland Foundation.”

Patterson said CSU felt somewhat shortchanged. “All the funds didn’t go to CSU students and faculty, but the majority did,” he said. Using the guidelines Patterson prepared, Fenn board members set up the foundation and became trustees of the new fund, donating a large majority of its grants to CSU and its students.

It functioned for six years as the Fenn Educational Foundation and in 1971, became the Fenn Educational Fund, now one of hundreds of others controlled by the Cleveland Foundation. According to William S. McKersie, senior program officer in the education department at the Cleveland Foundation, the fund was originally set up to support cooperative education. This fell right in line with the principles of cooperative education on which Fenn was founded in 1923.

“The foundation has always been very committed to working with CSU,” he said. “CSU is among our higher education grant recipients.”

Until this year, the fund hasn’t seen many changes in the almost 30 years it has been part of the Cleveland Foundation, which McKer-sie said is a good omen as far as funds go. Now, after more than a decade of no changes, new guidelines went into effect Jan. 1, 2000. These guidelines require grant proposals to “show how their respective programs or projects will address the workforce development needs and...other reputable research and analysis.” “It’s the only fund in greater Cleveland that’s devoted to advancing cooperative education and internships. It’s always been a very effective fund and has certainly advanced education, but we are trying to take it to a higher level,” McKersie said.

CSU always has received a lot of strong support from the foundation, he said. “The fund is one of the more important in terms of education.” Total giving since 1965 is more than $4.6 million and almost $1,460,000 of that amount has gone to fund programs at CSU. Other major grant recipients are Case Western Reserve University and Baldwin-Wallace College. The fund’s market value as of December 1999 was $9.3 million, of which approximately $355,000 will be available for distribution in June 2000 for the 2000-2001 school year.

The fund supports several other Cleveland area institutions from as far east as Lake Erie College to as far west as Baldwin-Wallace.

In addition to grants to area colleges, the Fenn Educational Fund also spreads its wealth elsewhere. The LINK program, established about 12 years ago with money from the fund, is an effort to attract minority high school students to CSU in the area of technical business and engineering. About five years ago, LINK spending was increased to include liberal arts students and non-technical business students.

In the past three years, the Fenn Educational Fund has also backed a venture called Project Springboard which assists students with disabilities in their career development.

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