Trustee claims University Circle Collaboration Award

Two years ago, Joseph and Nancy Keithley named three reasons for their $15 million commitment to Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The first two were obvious—they felt a passion for art history, and devotion to each institution.

The third? As the pair explained in a statement at the time:

“We also believe collaboration increases exponentially their benefit and influence within our community, and well beyond it.”

That confidence in cooperation, coupled with actions to encourage it, earned Nancy and Joseph Keithley this year’s Joseph D. Pigott University Circle Leadership Award, presented Thursday during University Circle Inc.’s annual meeting. The award honors those who advance the legacy of Mr. Piggott, the former president of University Circle Inc. (UCI) for more than two decades.

“Joe and Nancy are extraordinary advocates for the arts, culture, education, collaboration and more,” Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder said. “They richly deserve this recognition; I congratulate and thank them for all that they have done for our campus and larger community.”

Nancy, a trustee of the museum, and Joe, a longtime member of the university’s board, established the Nancy and Joseph Keithley Institute for Art History in 2013 with their $15 million commitment. The two organizations have collaborated on a joint doctoral program since 1967, and, in 2012, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded both institutions grants totaling $500,000 to support a reimagined joint program.

After seeing some of the early success of that effort, the Keithleys chose to advance and accelerate the partnership’s work even more. Their gift supports public and academic programming, joint publications that highlight the institute’s progress and impact and acquisitions and other essential needs of the museum’s Ingalls Library and Museum Archives, the third-largest art research library in the United States.

Beyond supporting the Institute for Art History, the Keithleys have contributed to professorships, fellowships and a broad range of other campus initiatives. Many other University Circle institutions also have benefited from their engagement, among them the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Institute of Music, The Cleveland Orchestra and The Music Settlement.

Nancy, a trustee of the Musical Arts Organization (the leadership body for The Cleveland Orchestra) also initiated and, with her husband, funded a program at The Cleveland Orchestra to support collaborations between it and other arts organizations in Cleveland. Through this effort, the orchestra held an event with the Cleveland Museum of Art and another with the Cleveland Playhouse.

Other institutions that have benefited from the Keithleys’ philanthropic passion for the region include NorTech, Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership and Leadership Cleveland.

UCI President Chris Ronayne also congratulated the Keithleys on their honor.

“The Keithleys embody the spirit of Joe Piggot as they tirelessly work to foster collaboration between our circle institutions,” he said. “They are also true neighborhood catalysts who are passionate about University Circle as a neighborhood. When it comes to neighborhood connections and revitalization, the Keithleys constantly work to improve the lives of those neighborhoods around us!”

This year marks the second straight where an individual with strong ties to Case Western Reserve received the Joseph D. Pigott University Circle Leadership Award Ellen Stirn Mavec, a university trustee who chairs the board’s Campus Planning Committee, also is president and chairman of the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation. The foundation has contributed generously to such campus projects as the Kelvin Smith Library and the Tinkham Veale University Center. She also is a longtime trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art and a life trustee of the Great lakes Theater Festival, among several other civic and community activities.