MANDEL, MORTON LEON (19 Sept. 1921 - 16 Oct. 2019) was a prominent business magnate and philanthropist. Morton was the youngest son of Rose and Simon Mandel who escaped pogroms in Poland. Parents ran a dry goods store on St. Clair Avenue until his father fell ill and became bedridden. Mandel’s mother supported him, his father, and his siblings, Meriam, Jack and Joseph by selling clothing. Mandel’s first job was working as a hot dog vendor at CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM. He graduated from Glenville High School in 1939 and accepted a scholarship to attend Adelbert College (which would later become part of CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY). His studies were interrupted in 1940 when he and his brothers invested $900 to open Premier Automotive Supply on Euclid Avenue, which would eventually become PREMIER INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION. His studies would be further delayed when he enlisted to fight in World War II.
Morton was the Chairman and CEO, as well as its public face of Premier. The company operated under a business model that provided difficult to find, specialized auto parts for its customers. By expanding this niche market, Premier would grow to sell a wide range of industrial parts. The Premier went public in 1960. In 1996, the company was acquired by the British-based Farnell Electronics PLC for $2.8 billion. Mandel helped lead the company through the merger serving as its Deputy Chairman from 1996-2002. Eventually, Premier Farnell would become the world’s third-largest parts distributor.
The Morton with his brothers Jack and Joseph were active in philanthropy since the 1940’s. In 1953, they founded the Mandel Foundation to support civic and philanthropic causes. Over the years, the Mandel Foundation has supported scholarships and academic programs at CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY and Case Western Reserve University.
In 2013 - a full 73 years after he left college to start a business, fight in a war, and become a prolific philanthropist, Morton Mandel returned to Case Western Reserve to complete his undergraduate degree. He presented his Capstone, a 177 page work on leadership entitled It’s All About Who. When he attended his commencement ceremony in April on 2013, he was the oldest graduate in attendance and also the only one with his name on one of the University’s buildings.
Morton Mandel died on October 16, 2019 at his home in Florida. He was survived by his wife, Barbara, their children, Amy, Thomas, and Stacy, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.