The Higley Fund of the Cleveland Foundation makes historic commitment toward renovation of Mandel School

Gift creates the Albert and Beverly Higley Research Commons, encouraging collaboration in teaching, learning, scholarship and research

Higley Fund's Bruce and Sharon Higley with Mandel School Dean Cleve Gilmore
Bruce G. Higley, Sharon Higley Watts and Mandel School Dean Grover “Cleve” Gilmore at Tuesday’s event announcing the commitment.

A $1 million commitment from The Higley Fund of the Cleveland Foundation—the largest single contribution from the fund in its history—will support the creation of more collaborative research and education spaces as part of the $9.2 million renovation of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

Announced Tuesday evening at a special celebration at the school, the commitment builds on a long history of engagement between the Higley family and the Mandel School. In fact, it dates back to 1922, when Mildred Higley earned the degree that allowed her to begin a career in social work, and extends through to this most recent commitment.

The Higley Fund, a supporting organization of the Cleveland Foundation, has contributed more than $272,000 in scholarships and youth-focused research grants at the Mandel School. The Higley Fund, originally established in 1994 by Beverly and Albert M. Higley Jr., embodies the philanthropic spirit of three generations of the Higley family. Two of their children, Bruce G. Higley and Sharon Higley Watts, represent the next generation as members of The Higley Fund board.

“Our connection to Case Western Reserve University began nearly a century ago,” said Bruce G. Higley, chairman of The Albert M. Higley Co. and president of The Higley Fund. “This commitment to the Mandel School reflects that legacy, as well as our belief that well-constructed spaces can have a transformative effect on what happens inside them.”

In 1925, Albert (Ab) Higley founded The Albert M. Higley Co., which today numbers more than 100 employees and produces an average of $175 million in construction projects each year. The firm has an active practice in higher education, and has built many Case Western Reserve projects including Tomlinson (1948) and Crawford (1968) halls, as well as the Kent Hale Smith Science and Engineering Building (1994) and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Community Studies Center (2007).

Albert Higley, Jr., became chairman and CEO of the company in 1971 and launched The Higley Fund through the Cleveland Foundation 23 years later. Beverly Higley was intimately involved with The Higley Fund and for many years also played an active role in the important work of the Cleveland Sight Center. In recognition of the new commitment, the Mandel School will name space on the second and third floors of the renovated building the Albert and Beverly Higley Research Commons.

“The commitment that the Higley Fund of the Cleveland Foundation feels to lifting the hearts and minds of others is evident in every commitment it has made over the past 21 years,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “We at Case Western Reserve and the Mandel School are deeply humbled by this new gift, and dedicated to proving the family’s confidence in our work well founded.

The Higley Fund of the Cleveland Foundation focuses on social service organizations providing basic needs—food, shelter, clothing, medical care and support—to those living in Greater Cleveland. It has contributed to organizations such as the American Red Cross, Greater Cleveland Foodbank and Salvation Army.

“For more than two decades, we have been privileged to address the changing needs of our community through our partnership with the Cleveland Foundation,” said Sharon Higley Watts, first vice president of The Higley Fund. “This gift ensures the next generation of Mandel students will thrive in an environment focused on collaborative learning and innovative research that strengthens the compassionate care provided in Greater Cleveland and beyond.”

U.S. News & World Report ranks the Mandel School’s master’s degree program ninth in the nation. Launched a century ago as leading Cleveland philanthropists recognized the need for professional training for social work, the Mandel School has achieved particular distinction for its work on youth violence, international social work education, and urban poverty and community development.

The school’s primary building was completed in 1990, and its design reflects an era in education more focused on individual learning and scholarship. But as the world itself has grown ever-more connected through technology and other advances, so too have approaches to education and research. Announced in the spring of 2013, the renovation project aims to provide students, staff and faculty space that encourages interaction, teamwork, and broad collaborations. All told, the effort is expected to involve renovation of just over half of the building’s existing square footage (32,440 of 63,594 total) as well as the addition of 3,700 square feet.

“I cannot begin to convey how much it means to our entire school and alumni community to see this project become so much closer to reality,” said Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Dean of Applied Social Sciences Grover “Cleve” Gilmore. “We feel profoundly honored by the fund’s historic gift, and extraordinarily appreciative of the entire Higley family.”