University friend Albert J. Weatherhead III passes

Legendary business leader and philanthropist Albert J. Weatherhead III died Tuesday at University Hospitals Case Medical Center with his wife, Celia, by his side. He was 86 years old.

“Al was a brilliant and generous man,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “I am honored to have come to know him the past few years, and grateful for his friendship and insight. The entire Case Western Reserve community mourns his passing, and extends our deepest sympathies to his wife, Celia.”

Weatherhead stands out in history as one of the university’s most significant and influential benefactors. Not only did he provide the resources that enabled the development of what is now known as the Weatherhead School of Management, but he also played a key role in the launch of its new home in the Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis building.

He also has three endowments at the management school, including a named professorship traditionally held by its dean. The family also endowed the Albert J. Weatherhead III and Richard W. Weatherhead Professorship at the School of Law, today held by renowned evidence scholar Paul Giannelli.

Finally, the Dorothy Jones Weatherhead Professorship in Family Medicine bears the name of Al’s mother and is believed to be the first endowed chair for family medicine in the country. It is held today by family medicine department chair George Kikano.

“Al was a remarkable man with an abiding interest in people, a keen mind and a sharp sense of humor,” Kikano said. “I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to know him and benefit from his wisdom about life.”

Al and Celia’s philanthropic activities touched institutions ranging from Harvard and Columbia to the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. More recently the family foundation committed $100 million to Tulane—Celia’s alma mater—for endowed professorships and student scholarships.

Al Weatherhead’s success in industry came primarily from two companies.  The first was automobile parts maker Weatherhead Co., which he took over at his father’s request and then sold to a larger company a decade later. The other was Weatherchem, which he founded in 1971 from the roots of a debt-laden Twinsburg plastics company. A dozen years later, that firm made its breakthrough product: a cap with two lids—one to an open hole for pouring and one with little holes for shaking. The lids have become ubiquitous as dispensers for spices, medication and more.

Even as Al experienced extraordinary triumphs in business, however, he suffered severe personal pain for many years. He experienced the death of an infant son, depression and near-paralyzing rheumatoid arthritis. In his 2008 book, The Power of Adversity, he attributed his recovery from arthritis to the love of his wife, Celia, and his ultimate decision to open himself to her support and affection.

“Due to Celia’s unwavering love, my trust in her blossomed into a deep sharing of our lives,” Al wrote in his book. He went on to explain. “… without Celia I never would have made it this far, much less had advice on mastering the power of adversity to share.”

The university will publish details regarding memorial services and other tributes as they become available.