Two business leaders make $5 million gift to university

Joseph B. Richey II and A. Malachi Mixon III have made a $5 million gift to name a Richey-Mixon Building at the Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. The two longtime business collaborators built the Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare Corp. into the world’s top manufacturer of home medical products.

The building will house the university’s “think box” programs—a collection of initiatives that seek to leverage and enhance Case Western Reserve University’s culture of innovation.

“This building is an ideal tribute to two men renowned in this community for their leadership, creativity and commitment to serving others,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Over the years J.B. and Mal formed a partnership that capitalized on their individual strengths and shared commitment to forward thinking. Their example, and this commitment, will enable others to follow their example.”

Video: Watch as these two businessmen discuss their commitment to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The university is in the process of exploring site locations for the Richey-Mixon Building—including the possibility of renovating an existing structure. In addition to creating a critical space for students, the building will provide state-of-the-art workspace in the heart of University Circle for start-up and established companies to do collaborative work with the members of the university community and others—from prototyping to business plan development.

“There are two parts to creating products and companies,” Richey said. “There’s the technical part, of course. But then you really need to look at whether you have a good product idea. You may have a great technological idea on your hands, but is it something people will buy? Is it something the world needs?”

Richey, who is president of Invacare Technologies Division and senior vice president of Electronic and Design Engineering at Invacare, has vast experience with the commercialization of new technologies. As an engineer at Ohio Nuclear (later Technicare) he was critical to adapting x-ray tube and electronics technology to create the first full body CAT scan—an innovation that revolutionized medicine. Richey is a 1962 graduate in electrical engineering and applied physics from the Case Institute of Technology.

“For me, personally, this building is about honoring J.B. [Richey], who is a Case graduate and helped me build a business in this region through great engineering ideas,” Mixon said. “But beyond that we want to be a part of helping the next generation of young people with vision take some risks and generate some companies and a new birth for Cleveland.”

Mixon, who co-led the leveraged buyout of Invacare in 1979 with Richey and a team of investors for nearly $8 million, is Invacare’s chairman. Under his leadership, the company grew from $19 million to reach $1.7 billion in sales by 2010 and promoted a “Yes, you can” philosophy to help consumers achieve a better quality of life no matter their physical limitations. Mixon has also helped guide and shape the industry through pivotal legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Consumer Choice Initiative. He is a 1962 graduate of Harvard College and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Richey and Mixon plan to have offices in the building bearing their name after their retirements to support the start-up of new businesses.

“This building will create a physical space for students to roll up their sleeves and take their ideas as far as they can,” said Gary Wnek, the Joseph F. Toot Jr. Professor of Engineering and faculty director of The Institute for Management and Engineering. “Ultimately, we want to educate holistic thinkers who are collaborative problem solvers and see the new business potential in raw ideas.”