Photo of Joe Mandato
Joe Mandato

Business alumnus commits $1 million to university’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building

Medtech entrepreneur Joe Mandato (MGT ’04) was well into his career—and living on the West Coast—when he decided to pursue a doctorate in business. After reviewing his options—and factoring in the challenge of a cross-country commute—he arrived at Case Western Reserve University.

The non-traditional student earned his Doctor of Business Administration degree from Weatherhead School of Management in 2004, and two decades later, has committed $1 million to support the largest investment to date on the university’s Case Quad: the 189,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (ISEB).

A century bond the university issued in 2022 will allow the gift to be fully matched, increasing the impact to $2 million.

“We appreciate Joe’s generous support for the ISEB and for the cross-disciplinary collaborations and discoveries that will occur there,” Case Western Reserve University President Eric W. Kaler said. “As an investor, executive and entrepreneur in the life sciences, Joe appreciates the impact the ISEB will have not only on our research enterprise, but also on addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Mandato’s connection with CWRU began long before he enrolled as a student. When receiving potential investment presentations throughout his career, they were often based on technology or entrepreneurs coming from Case Western Reserve. 

Already professionally accomplished with a career immersed in the life sciences and technology, and having recently completed a term as a CEO, Mandato was ready for another challenge. Teaching part-time at Stanford University and considering a full-time role, he felt a doctorate was a logical next step. CWRU became his destination.

“The reputation of the institution far exceeded whatever logistics challenges I knew I might experience,” he said. “So I applied, had the good fortune to be accepted and I went.” But the transition back to the classroom was not as smooth as he had envisioned. 

Calling it “the hardest thing [he’s] ever done,” Mandato logged countless flights and many  nights in hotels and apartments over several years en route to his doctorate. 

“The university’s faculty has been built around world-class people with world-class demands from their students,” Mandato said. “It was so challenging, but somehow I did it.”

The alumnus is a member of Case Western Reserve’s board of trustees and says his affinity for the university and its faculty and staff is strong. But he’s especially excited for those who will benefit most from the ISEB: the students. 

Seeing the opportunity to spur innovation, Mandato was an early supporter of the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], the 50,000-square-foot makerspace on campus. He sees ISEB as the continuation of think[box]’s impacts—providing talented minds with hands-on resources to fulfill their imaginations.

“Cleveland is already a global center of healthcare,” he noted. “Creating something like the ISEB will only enhance our reputation on a global basis and provide an infrastructure to keep innovations coming. This facility is a natural thing to want to support. You want to be able to give the students the infrastructure they need to maximize their output. And we want to continue to draw and recruit the best students in the country.”