Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust, trustees to receive President’s Award for Visionary Achievement

 Phil Ranney and Bill LaPlace
Phillip A. Ranney (left) and William B. LaPlace (right)

A simple yet powerful maxim guides the extraordinary philanthropy of the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust: helping people and organizations help themselves.

That principle emanates from the lives of the Trust’s namesake, Kent Hale Smith (CIT ’17), and his wife, Thelma. And it continues today through the dedicated leadership of its trustees, William B. La Place and Phillip A. Ranney (LAW ’61).

To recognize their generosity, President Barbara R. Snyder will honor La Place, Ranney and the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust with the 2015 President’s Award for Visionary Achievement during commencement ceremonies May 17 at the Veale Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center.

La Place and Ranney bear a fiduciary responsibility for the Trust’s activities, but even more they feel a profound obligation to honor the legacy of Kent and Thelma Smith. Listen to either trustee speak of the Smiths, and the sense of their admiration and affection becomes palpable.

Kent Smith co-founded Lubrizol Corp. and served as a trustee of Case Institute of Technology as well as its interim president from 1958 to 1961. Later named an honorary trustee of Case Western Reserve, he ardently advocated for the university through his words and deeds.

The Smiths founded the Trust in 1971 as the 1525 Foundation, an anonymous gift-giving entity. The couple found great satisfaction in deflecting recognition, preferring to direct attention toward the many organizations benefiting from their gifts. Only after Kent Smith’s death was the Trust renamed to celebrate the difference he made for so many, including extraordinary support for Case Western Reserve University.

Kent and Thelma Smith died in 1980 and 2007, respectively. La Place and Ranney have worked tirelessly to carry forward the Trust’s tradition by honoring the couple’s priorities through the Trust and its foundation predecessors. The trustees have employed creativity and assiduous judgment to construct challenge grants and other gifts that make an immediate and lasting impact.

Case Western Reserve University has benefited enormously from the Smiths’ support. From 1970 to date, the Smith foundations and the Trust have made charitable gifts of more than $130 million, of which more than $44 million has been given to Case Western Reserve. The Trust and the Smith foundations have awarded funds to the Kelvin Smith Library, the Kent H. Smith Professors for Case School of Engineering, the Elmer G. Beamer – Hubert H. Schneider Chair in Ethics at the College of Arts and Sciences, think[ box ], and the Kent Hale Smith Building, which houses the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Recognizing the significance of student engagement in campus life, the Trust also made a significant commitment to the Wyant Athletic and Wellness Center and a $10.5 million challenge grant to the Tinkham Veale University Center.

In 2014 alone, the Trust contributed to more than 50 organizations, with a focus on higher education, projects related to the environment, and organizations in Northeast Ohio.

Kent Smith had a driving passion for motivating others to give. His encounters with business associates and friends would often result in them joining him in donating to a worthy cause. That same spirit of shared generosity, coupled with challenge, endures through the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust, advancing Case Western Reserve and Northeast Ohio in truly remarkable ways.

President Snyder created the President’s Award for Visionary Achievement in 2008 to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through exceptional philanthropic service to the university, the world and humanity. Previous honorees include Peter B. Lewis, Iris Wolstein, Milton and Tamar Maltz, Tinkham Veale, Norma Lerner, Jane Baker Nord, the Cleveland Foundation and Ronald B. Richard.