Emeritus Trustee A. Malachi Mixon, an entrepreneur whose leadership transformed a little-known Northeast Ohio business into a global powerhouse, died Monday, Nov. 30. He was 80.
Raised in an Oklahoma town of barely 1,500 residents, Mixon went on to earn two Harvard degrees, fulfill military scholarship obligations in Vietnam, and start his career in Cleveland—the hometown of his wife, Barbara.
After surviving testicular cancer and leading marketing for a Cleveland medical equipment firm, Mixon yearned to lead his own enterprise. When Johnson & Johnson acquired his company and sought to sell a subsidiary, Mixon saw his chance.
Problem was, he had $10,000—and the price was nearly $8 million.
Mixon strategized with a friend and colleague, Case Western Reserve engineering alumnus J.B. Richey, and eventually persuaded other investors to join. With Mixon as CEO and Richey leading engineering and innovation, the company that nobody wanted was the world’s top manufacturer of home medical products with sales of $1.7 billion.
A generous philanthropist, Mixon’s first major commitment to Case Western Reserve was to endow a professorship in entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, where he often spoke to students about his path.
“Mal Mixon was one of the most successful innovators and entrepreneurs I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Interim President Scott Cowen, who was dean of the Weatherhead School at the time of the gift. “Mal’s success as a businessman was equally matched by his generosity and thoughtfulness. He will be sorely missed but his legacy will always be remembered and admired.”
Added faculty member Scott Shane, who today holds Mixon’s professorship: “Mal was the single biggest supporter of entrepreneurship education at the Weatherhead School I have known. He was always first to get behind programs and initiatives, gave of his time for classes and research, and always made sure the administration was focused on teaching entrepreneurship.”
It was that belief in entrepreneurship that moved Mixon to support the idea of a campus innovation space to be called think[box]—and, In turn, to encourage his friend Richey to join him. The pair’s $5 million commitment toward a building marked the first public announcement of the concept. Today, the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] stands at the northwest corn of the university’s main campus, in a seven-story, 50,000 square-foot building that bears the Mixon-Richey name.
“Mal was a successful and respected businessman and a generous supporter of the community and Case Western Reserve,” said Sears, a university trustee and adjunct professor of engineering. “His faith and commitment to think[box] was fundamental to its success.”
More than just a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mixon believed deeply in sharing his knowledge and experience. He was chairman of both the Cleveland Clinic Board of Trustees and the Cleveland Institute of Music, in addition to his service to the boards of Case Western Reserve University, the Sherwin-Williams Co., and Park Ohio.
“Mal was a brilliant business leader, a generous and thoughtful philanthropist, and an exceptional mentor to many young entrepreneurs,” President Emerita Barbara R. Snyder said. “He served as a frequent guest speaker for many years at the Weatherhead School of Management. And he played a critical role in the development of think[box] on our campus. Mal was a wise adviser to me and a wonderful friend. I will miss his valuable counsel and his tremendous warmth.”