Elaine “Lainie” Hadden was one of those rare souls who lifted spirits simply by entering a room.
Part of the effect was the joy she brought to nearly every occasion, a palpable sense of excitement shown in her signature wide smile. More than contagious, it was irresistible—so much so that people flocked to the causes that captured her interest.
“Lainie had such a special way about her,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “She loved people, she loved ideas, and she loved sharing her enthusiasm with others.”
Hadden, a longtime member of the university’s Board of Trustees and tireless supporter of several local nonprofit organizations, died Friday. She was 88.
After graduating from Laurel School and Vassar College, she married John A. Hadden Jr. in 1955. A psychiatrist who earned his medical degree from what was then Western Reserve University, he became a staff psychiatrist at University Hospitals, the Children’s Aid Society, and Cuyahoga County’s juvenile court. He later became a trustee and then president of the Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development, engagement that she continued after his death in 1994. For its 60th anniversary in 2011, Hanna Perkins held a gala honoring her—and, as often was the case, she turned the occasion as a way to celebrate the organization.
“More than anything, people want to be understood,” she told Cleveland Magazine in an interview about the honor. “That’s how Hanna Perkins makes children feel.”
Hadden herself made people of all ages feel appreciated. When then-university President Agnar “Ag” Pytte chose to step down in 1999 after 12 years as the president, the board chair tapped Hadden to lead a mini-campaign to name the university’s new science center in Pytte’s honor. Within six weeks the effort had raised $7.2 million, a tribute to Pytte to be sure—but also to the chair’s wisdom in choosing Hadden to make the requests.
Another building project—this one involving preservation—proved to be the most striking example of her ability to engage and inspire. As downtown movie theaters in Playhouse Square began closing in the late 1960s, the State of Ohio started eyeing the area’s parcels as potential parking lots. When Ray Shepardson, a former school district employee, began rallying support to save the structures, he approached Hadden, then leader of the Junior League. Although initially skeptical about his chances, Hadden eventually agreed to assist.
When news eventually broke that two of the theaters were going to accept bids for demolition, Hadden mobilized the Junior League to commit $25,000 to save the structures. Thanks to the league’s quick action, several leading businessmen joined to make a comparable contribution—and she and her husband also personally donated to the project. Today the venues represent the largest performing arts center in the nation outside of New York City.
In 2012 Playhouse Square recognized Hadden as one of five “visionaries” who rescued the theaters. In her remarks, she quoted from “Over the Rainbow”: “Dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
Hadden’s decades of involvement with Case Western Reserve has helped make many other dreams realities as well. A trustee from 1974 through 2003, Hadden endowed a professorship in child psychoanalytic development in her late husband’s honor and made several other generous gifts to the School of Medicine, the president’s strategic initiatives fund, and the Lucia Smith Nash Walkway.
In 2012, she established the Elaine G. Hadden Visiting Author Fund to support presentations by the individuals who write the books selected for each year’s Common Reading. During Convocation that year, President Snyder presented Hadden with the University Medal, the highest honor Case Western Reserve can bestow.
“Lainie was a tireless advocate for the children of our community, the arts and culture that helped make downtown thrive, and the teaching and research that takes place every day on our campus,” President Snyder said. “As saddened as we are by her passing, we know that her spirit will live on for generations—not only in the light she brought to so many, but also the organizations and institutions she helped sustain and transform. She will be deeply missed—and always remembered.”
Hadden is survived by her daughters, Lucretia H. “Keecy” Weiner and son-in-law Wayne Weiner, Alexandra H. “Allie” Hanna and son-in-law Joseph, two grandsons, several nieces and nephews, and friend and companion David Ford. Brown-Forward Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for her services.