Case Western Reserve University announces $2 million gift to support two endowed positions

Alumnus James C. Wyant’s most recent gift will benefit athletics and two schools

Photo of Jim Wyant overlooking CWRU football field

As Case Western Reserve kicked off its first virtual homecoming weekend with the annual Blue Block Party, university leadership announced a $2 million commitment from alumnus James C. Wyant (CIT ’65) toward athletics and education.

The gift will support the establishment of the James C. Wyant Athletic Department Endowment, the naming of the athletic director position as the James C. Wyant Athletic Director as well as the creation of the Frederick Reines Professorship, a shared position to be held jointly in the College of Arts and Sciences and Case School of Engineering.

“Jim’s gift will have a transformative effect on our athletic department, and I am so very grateful to him,” said Lou Stark, vice president for student affairs, noting that the gift will provide Athletic Director Amy Backus with discretionary funds for special programs. 

Wyant, a renowned optical scientist, remains passionate about advancing the academic and athletic opportunities available to CWRU students. Lettering four years in track and cross country in his undergraduate years, Wyant became captain his senior year—although he never intended to become a student-athlete. 

After several attempts by then-Coach Bill Sudeck to recruit the first-year student for a spot on the cross country team, Wyant eventually decided to attend a practice. The chance opportunity has turned into a lifelong relationship with his alma mater. As Wyant stated in making his most notable contribution to Case Western Reserve, a $4 million gift to help create the Wyant Athletic and Wellness Center, “I always hoped that someday I would make enough money to come back and help the athletic department that taught me so much, including the benefits of physical fitness in one’s life.”

“We are humbled by Jim Wyant’s most generous gift,” Backus said. “He has been a tremendous and constant supporter of our students, coaches and programs. This endowment will help propel CWRU Spartan student-athletes to new heights today and in the future.”

In addition to the support for athletics, Wyant’s gift and a matching $1 million anonymous gift will create the Frederick Reines Professorship in honor of Reines, a Nobel Prize recipient and Case Institute of Technology professor who taught Wyant as a student. The endowed professorship is shared between the Case School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences—believed to be the first position of its kind at Case Western Reserve.

“Jim’s leadership and philanthropy at Case Western Reserve have always been trailblazing,” said Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, dean of the Case School of Engineering. “This professorship builds on Jim’s legacy, bringing the College of Arts and Sciences and Case School of Engineering together in an exciting new way.” 

Joy Ward, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, added: “Jim knows Case Western Reserve is at its best when collaboration drives our work, and we are incredibly thankful for this gift, which ensures collaboration stays at the heart of our teaching and research.”  

In addition to today’s announcement, Wyant’s support of the university totals $10 million including a $4 million gift to the Wyant Athletic and Wellness Center, a gift of $3 million to the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], and $1 million for the James C. Wyant Professorship in Engineering.