case western reserve university



Impact of The Case Bequest

Leonard Case, Jr., died in 1880. He had never been physically strong, and his death was not a surprise. On the other hand, a major asset in his estate was a stunning gift of $1.25 million in the form a real estate trust to found a school of applied science, the first such institution in the region.

Case was the son of a leading member of the community who had also served as a member of the Ohio Legislature, and the family was active in business and civic affairs. His brother William was a member of Cleveland City Council and had served two terms as Cleveland's Mayor in the 1850s, and the family name appears on buildings and streets in the region.

City leaders had expected that Case's estate would provide funds for a major new municipal building. But Case had other ideas, as reflected in a quote that appeared in The Plain Dealer 18 years after his death:

What I possess was made in Cleveland and is largely the result of the growth of the city. It is right that Cleveland should have the benefit. How to dispose of the property so that it shall most benefit the city has given me much concern, but on one thing I am determined. Not a dollar of it shall, so far as I can help, go into the hands of politicians to be mismanaged and wasted.

Leonard Case, Jr.

Case had corresponded extensively with Dr. John Newberry, a Cleveland geologist, a former member of the Western Reserve College medical department faculty, and a fellow Arkite, about opportunities for an educational institution that would focus on the use of scientific principles by persons who would be professionals in every sense of the word. Beginning in 1877, he had also transferred valuable parcels of property into a trust that would provide the endowment for the new school, and he had asked his confidential advisor and fellow Arkite Henry Gilbert Abbey to administer the trust and to keep it secret until after his death.

Case left no will, but two days after he died, Abbey filed the trust documents, and only then did the community learn what Case had intended. The trust document contained little guidance for the curriculum to be offered, however, and it was left to the board convened by Abbey to interpret Case's intentions. In doing so, they sought advice from many experts, including Benjamin Gould, an astronomer who was a founder of the National Academy of Sciences. They decided to hire the astronomer and mathematician John N. Stockwell, who had been known to Case, to be the school's first faculty member and to lead the planning for the program to be offered.

Case Main Building, the first structure on the campus of the Case School of Applied Science in University Circle.