Creativity, Ingenuity, Risk-Taking, and Good Humor
Homer Wadsworth was executive director of the Cleveland Foundation from 1974 to 1983. He was known as an innovative, visionary, and energetic leader, overseeing the foundation’s work not only as a community grantmaker, but also as an educator, convener, and strategic investor. Click here to download the monograph “The People’s Entrepreneur: Homer C. Wadsworth.”
The Homer C. Wadsworth Award was established to recognize local leaders who reflect those qualities and demonstrate creativity, ingenuity, risk-taking, and good humor in a civic, volunteer, nonprofit, or public-sector role. It is presented each year at the Cleveland Foundation’s annual meeting.
The award was first given in the 1990s and was on hiatus for several years before being resurrected in 2008. Winners have been:
Executive Director, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland
A Cleveland native, Phyllis “Seven” Harris has nearly two decades of leadership experience in local nonprofits, including program management and development, fundraising and senior-level executive positions. For many years, she also has played a strong role as an advocate in Cleveland’s LGBT community.
Previously, Ms. Harris worked at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio where she oversaw youth engagement programming. Her involvement with Cleveland nonprofit leadership includes roles on the governing boards of the LGBT Center, SPACES, Housing Research and Advocacy Center, Plexus LGBTQA Chamber of Commerce and Community Shares of Greater Cleveland.
In 2015 she was recognized by Human Rights Campaign Cleveland for the HRC Leadership Award, and in 2016, she received the Nonprofit Leadership Award from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Ms. Harris holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management from CWRU and a Bachelor of Arts from Baldwin Wallace College. She lives in Larchmere and is the proud mother of two children.
Vice President, Western Reserve Land Conservancy
Director of the Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Program
Jim Rokakis, Vice President of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Director of the Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Program, is one of the nation’s leading experts on the foreclosure crisis and neighborhood revitalization. In his 33-year career in public service as a member of Cleveland City Council and then Cuyahoga County Treasurer, Jim was instrumental for many innovations, including the passage of a state law allowing for the creation of county land banks. As director of Thriving Communities Institute, he has helped to raise over $232 million for blight removal in Ohio’s communities.
He is the recipient of numerous local, state and national awards, including being named “County Leader of the Year” by American City and County Magazine in 2007. In December 2011, Rokakis was featured on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” discussing the need to fund demolition in distressed urban areas. Rokakis wrote the cover story for The Washington Post’s Outlook section on February 10, 2012, about the need to demolish distressed properties in inner-city neighborhoods.
He earned his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and his Juris Doctorate degree from Cleveland-Marshall School of Law.
President, Friends of Breakthrough Schools
As president of Friends of Breakthrough Schools, Zitzner oversees the fundraising and advocacy activities for the Breakthrough Charter Schools network. He is the founder of the Entrepreneurship Preparatory (the first independent charter school to be sponsored/authorized by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District) and Village Preparatory schools in Cleveland, which joined two other high-performing Cleveland charter schools in 2010 to form Breakthrough Schools. Zitzner co-founded Breakthrough alongside Perry White (Citizens Academy) and Brooke King (Intergenerational School).
Today, Breakthrough Schools operates 10 schools serving 3,100 scholars, and will soon grow to 11 schools serving 3,500 scholars in the 2015-2016 school year. The network aspires to have 20 schools by 2020 serving 7,000 K-8 scholars. Breakthrough educates an underserved student population in Cleveland that is 97 percent minority and 83 percent low income. They are among the top-rated charter networks in the state.
A successful entrepreneur, John is the founder and former President and CEO of Bradley Company, a Cleveland-based software firm that began in 1983 and was acquired by Xerox Corporation in 1998. John went on to found E CITY (Entrepreneurship: Connecting, Inspiring, and Teaching Youth), a nonprofit organization that provided entrepreneurship education to Cleveland high school students. John is a graduate of Wittenberg University and has studied nonprofit organizational management at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School.
Chief Administrative Officer of University Hospitals of Cleveland
Steven D. Standley, chief administrative officer of University Hospitals, is an outstanding exemplar of the fundamental purpose of the Wadsworth Award: to recognize “innovative, visionary and energetic local leaders who demonstrate creativity, ingenuity, risk-taking and good humor in a civic, volunteer, nonprofit or public sector role.”
Since 2000, Mr. Standley has served in senior leadership roles at University Hospitals in Cleveland, where he is currently responsible for systemwide master facilities planning, major construction projects, plant operations, biomedical engineering, operational effectiveness, sustainability programs, supply chain, shared services, marketing and communications, information technology, government affairs, nutrition and environmental services, and real estate.
Mr. Standley maintains many professional and community affiliations and has served as a board member of several organizations, including University Circle Inc., NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology and the Evergreen Cooperatives Corporation. Additionally, Mr. Standley has served on the boards of Medical Center Company, Southwest General Hospital, CSA UHHS, Inc. and the W.O. Walker Center. He serves on the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Stewardship Council and several community economic development committees, including the Greater University Circle Committee, Health-Tech Corridor Steering Committee, Opportunity Corridor Coordinating Committee and Greater Cleveland Partnership Construction Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
President and CEO of PlayhouseSquare
Art J. Falco, president and CEO of PlayhouseSquare, has been a creative force in Cleveland for more than two decades, leading the expansion of PlayhouseSquare from five performance spaces to 10 stages, making it the nation’s largest performing arts center outside New York City.
Falco joined PlayhouseSquare as finance director in 1985 and took the helm in 1991. During his tenure, Falco has shepherded artistic collaborations with WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN ideastream (Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare), Great Lakes Theater (Hanna Theatre renovation), and Cleveland Play House and Cleveland State University (Allen Theatre project).
Falco is an official Tony Award voter and member of the Broadway League. He serves on the boards of Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Positively Cleveland, and the Union Club, and is treasurer of the PlayhouseSquare District Development Corporation.
“Art’s talents have helped put Cleveland and PlayhouseSquare center stage nationally,” said Ronald B. Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “The innovative partnerships Art envisioned and led are considered national models, showcasing the power of collaboration for local arts organizations. The fact that PlayhouseSquare has also enjoyed a balanced budget with no layoffs or salary cuts in 24 years is another feather in his cap – and such a rarity in the performing arts industry. There’s no winner that has more embodied all of the qualities this award recognizes in honor of Homer Wadsworth – creativity, ingenuity, and risk-taking.”
Vickie Eaton Johnson 2012
Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp.
Vickie Eaton Johnson, executive director of the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp. (FRDC), has been a visionary leader in Cleveland’s neighborhoods for the past two decades, helping to shepherd business and residential development to transform neighborhoods.
Since 1997, Johnson has served as executive director of FRDC. In that time, the organization has grown from $26,000 in net assets to $9.5 million. She has directed more than $120 million in new investments in the Fairfax neighborhood, with $17 million planned in 2012.
Johnson’s previous roles include manager for the City of Cleveland’s Housing Construction Office, housing director for Hough Area Partners in Progress, and legislative assistant to the Democratic Caucus in the Ohio State Senate.
Active in the community, Johnson serves as board vice chair for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and is on the steering committee of the Opportunity Corridor Project. She also volunteers with Citizens Academy and Cleveland Action to Support Housing.
Johnson attended Cleveland public schools and is a graduate of Collinwood High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin Wallace College and a master’s degree in public administration from the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
“Vickie Eaton Johnson has been a tireless trailblazer in helping to turn around neighborhoods by not only leading economic development, but also by leading efforts to get residents engaged in their community,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “She exemplifies the vision, energy, and creativity of Homer Wadsworth, whose legacy this award celebrates.”
Stephen McPeake 2011
North Coast Community Homes
Stephen McPeake is one of our community’s best-known advocates for people with disabilities. In 1985, he became the founding president of North Coast Community Homes, a nonprofit funded for startup by the Cleveland Foundation. Over the years, McPeake has pioneered the development of safe, comfortable, and affordable homes of high quality for people with developmental disabilities, severe mental illness, or other disabilities. He brings to this cause a combination of passion, integrity, determination, commitment to excellence, persistence in the face of multiple challenges, and an open mind. The greatest and most satisfying result of his leadership can be seen in the smiling faces of those who can now live fuller and more independent lives in homes of their own. McPeake earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Kent State University.
Economic Development Director for the City of Cleveland
Tracey Nichols is the “go-to” person when it comes to economic development in Cleveland, especially when creative solutions are needed – balancing unconventional and entrepreneurial approaches with pragmatism.
As the economic development director for the city of Cleveland, she has been a key player in numerous projects that aim to build a thriving economy in the city and the region.
“In many of the initiatives in which we’ve been involved, Tracey Nichols has been more than just a partner. She has been a driving force,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “In a time in our history when government and government service often seem to be under a cloud, I am particularly delighted that a public servant has been selected for the Homer Wadsworth Award. It reminds us that there are many fine individuals in government, who work very hard, under tough conditions, to improve the lives of America’s citizens.”
Nichols began working for the city of Cleveland in 2008 after serving for four years as Cuyahoga County’s assistant director for economic development. Working with her team at the county, she created several new programs including the M.A.D.E. in Cuyahoga County Loan program for manufacturers, New Product Development/Entrepreneurship Program partnering with MAGNET, the Commercial Redevelopment Fund, Destination Cleveland, and the Arts and Culture as Economic Development (ACE) Grant Program.
Nichols has also been active in the area of Brownfield Redevelopment and, under her leadership, Cuyahoga County has been viewed as a national leader in Brownfield redevelopment. From 2004 to 2007, the county team’s programs have won the National Association of Counties (NACO) Arts and Culture Award, three NACO Achievement Awards, the National Association of County Community and Economic Development (NACCED) Award of Excellence in Economic Development, Inside Business’ Economic Development Award for Sustainable Projects, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Award of Excellence, and the USEPA Region V Award for Exceptional Leadership in Brownfield Redevelopment.
She has a degree in business management, concentrating in accounting and finance, from Case Western Reserve University and has the National Development Council’s certification as an economic development finance professional. As a member of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s cabinet, she is working with Cuyahoga County and the state of Ohio to create new programs that help local Cleveland businesses grow and attract new businesses to the region.
Malvin E. Bank 2009
Malvin Bank served as general counsel for the Cleveland Foundation from 1967 to 2003. He also has been a trustee for more than 30 charitable and educational institutions, and a director for more than 50 for-profit businesses. His work behind the scenes has been vital to a wide variety of important community projects, including the development of Lexington Village in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood and the establishment of Playhouse Square and the WCLV Foundation.
“For decades, Mal Bank has been a constant, quiet counselor to so many individuals, foundations, and nonprofit organizations in Cleveland,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “He has helped them fulfill their dreams and aspirations by working to develop their missions and organizational structures, and navigate IRS regulations. His is an exemplary life of public service. It’s difficult to imagine someone more deserving of the Homer C. Wadsworth Award.”
Bank has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers of America for 25 consecutive years, since the publication’s inception. His legal practice centers on federal income and estate tax matters, as well as foundations and tax-exempt organizations. He served as a representative for the Council on Foundations in negotiations with the U.S. Treasury Department and Congress over rules and regulations related to charities.
Bank earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Pennsylvania State University and a juris doctorate from Yale Law School. In 1999, he was given the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumnus Award by Penn State, where he and his wife Lea would later fund the university’s newly created Jewish Studies Program. At Yale, he served as an editor for the Yale Law Review.
Bank was an officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he earned the Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation. He also served as a councilman for the Village of Hunting Valley for 10 years.
Earl Pike 2008
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, has been a committed and passionate advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. He engineered the merger of five separate Cleveland-area agencies into the AIDS Taskforce and took a lead role in creating the Collaborative for Comprehensive School-Age Health, an entity that helped produce K-12 curricula around sex education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Under Pike’s leadership, the Taskforce has expanded its services to address the needs of a wider spectrum of people living with HIV. One example is the establishment of the Beyond Identities Community Center, which offers nightly programming on various health education topics for African-American and Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual youth.
Pike has also authored a wide variety of poetry, fiction and plays, including the 1993 book, “We Are All Living with AIDS.”
“What sets the Homer C. Wadsworth Award apart from other leadership awards is that its recipients exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to collaborate with others, along with a passion for their work,” said Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “Earl Pike is a shining example of Homer Wadsworth’s generous spirit and lifelong dedication to community service.”
Gail Long, LISW 2002
As a longtime Merrick House staff member and its executive director since 1987, Gail Long has been at the front and center of nearly every contemporary effort to craft humane responses to the needs of poor and minority residents of the near West Side neighborhoods of Tremont, Clark-Fulton and Brooklyn Center. Under her leadership, Cleveland’s oldest settlement house provides comprehensive social, educational and recreational services to 3,000 persons annually, despite shrinking governmental support.
Long’s contributions go beyond exceptional administration and development of a key community resource. Calling upon her impressive skills at building consensus, coalitions, and collaboratives, she has also helped to change policiesthat impact adversely on her clients, who range from infants to seniors. For example, common wisdom of the late 1980s dictated that Metropolitan General Hospital should privatize in order to survive. Recognizing such a move as literally a physical threat to West Siders who lacked the ability to pay for health care, Long organized and helped to maintain for five years an intense lobbying effort that resulted in Metro’s perpetuation as one of the nation’s premier public hospitals. She was also a charter member of the “Free Tremont” campaign that persuaded the city to reopen or rebuild road and bridge links to that neighborhood, which had been closed in the 1980s, imprisoning Tremont and paralyzing its economy.
Long attributes her devotion to community activism to the example set by her parents, both union organizers.
A native of Hawaii who majored in sociology at Oregon’s Willamette University, Long came to Cleveland in the mid-1960s to study social science administration at Case Western Reserve University. Earning her master’s degree in 1967, she accepted a position as a community organizer, first at West Side Community House and then at Merrick House in 1971. By 1976, she had been promoted to assistant director. That year the Cleveland public schools were ordered to desegregate. At the behest of the Merrick House board, Long worked tirelessly in the neighborhoods to ensure that violence did not erupt when the buses rolled. She calmed fears by making educational home visits, recruited welcoming teams to greet East Side students upon arrival at their new West Side schools and helped organize two public demonstrations in support of peaceful desegregation that saw East and West Siders march out to the middle of the Detroit-Superior bridge to shake hands.
Long has always defined her responsibilities broadly, in emulation of Hull House founder Jane Addams, who was active in causes — public education, women’s suffrage — beyond the purview of the original settlement house movement. In the 1970s Long became involved in the planning and creation of such enterprises as the Near West Side Free Clinic, the Tremont People’s Free Clinic, and Neighborhood Family Practice, a nonprofit primary-care provider that is still in business today. In the 1980s, she helped to found the Women’s Center of Greater Cleveland, a multiservice organization that assists its clients in taking control of their lives physically, emotionally, and economically. The center annually serves some 2,100 women and their families.
In the 1990s Long joined the board of Cleveland Housing Network — the Midwest’s largest producer of affordable housing — where she functions as a “keeper of the mission” of helping low-income families attain housing and self-respect. She plays a similar role with Tremont West Development Corporation, which was created under the leadership of Merrick House in the summer of 1976 to combat the nightly outbreak of arson in abandoned buildings. Long helped to structure Tremont West as an organization directed by and responsive to grassroots residents and block clubs, and she remains actively involved in its affairs as a member of its housing committee. Her championship of affordable rental housing provides an effective counterbalance to the total gentrification of Tremont.
When Gail Long came to Cleveland, “Tremont” was merely War on Poverty planning terminology. Residents thought of the neighborhood as Lincoln Heights. Today the name Tremont resonates positively throughout Greater Cleveland as an icon of urban revitalization. Long’s professional and personal dedication for 35 years to the well-being of this community — Cleveland’s most racially, ethnically, and economically diverse — has unquestionably helped to spell the difference.
Norman Krumholz 2001
Advocate and Practitioner of ‘Equity’ Urban Planning
Norman Krumholz received the 2001 Homer C. Wadsworth Award for acting on the conviction, as an urban planner, civic activist, exemplary teacher, and prolific writer, that city planning can and should be a means by which communities strive to achieve economic and social justice for all their citizens.
As the director of Cleveland Planning Commission under three mayors, Krumholz led the nation in pioneering the concept of “equity planning.” Krumholz’s introduction of equity into the urban planning process, long dominated by single-minded proponents of bricks and mortar, influenced key policy decisions of the era. His advocacy of mass transit as a means of improving the access of lower-income people to jobs gave impetus to the creation of the Regional Transit Authority.
He founded and served as the first director of the Center for Neighborhood Development, whose farsighted mission was to “create interest and hope in the revitalization of Cleveland’s neighborhoods by providing residents with encouragement as well as research and technical assistance.” Today many of the fledgling neighborhood development groups whose growth CND fostered are thriving incubators of residential and commercial redevelopment projects. Perhaps his most far-reaching accomplishment as CND director was to create a system to deliver energy conservation services to low-income families struggling to pay their utility bills. Two decades later the network of energy providers that he convinced to make significant investments in grassroots conservation efforts is still at work, completing 6,000 household retrofits annually in northeast Ohio.
Krumholz has written more than 75 journal articles and co-authored five books. From 1998 to 2001, he served as president of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and he is a former member of advisory committees to schools or departments of planning at Harvard, Cornell, and M.I.T.
Donna Kelly Rego 2000
Courageous Lay Leadership in Public Health Care
Donna Kelly Rego received the 2000 Homer C. Wadsworth Award for her exceptional devotion to improving the well-being of Greater Clevelanders in need, a commitment most visibly exemplified by her fearless lay leadership of the MetroHealth System, Ohio’s largest public provider of health care services, during a decade of intense turmoil in the medical industry.
A member of the MetroHealth board since 1983, Rego became chairperson at a moment when the institution was being challenged to its core. Her unwavering commitment to MetroHealth’s mission of service regardless of ability to pay sustained this essential public institution through a tumultuous decade that saw the expansion of managed care; reductions in public support of medical care for low-income families and individuals; unprecedented competition among regional health care providers; and the privatization of many public hospitals.
Admired for her business-like approach to not-for-profit management, Rego initiated a strategic planning process, stepped in to supervise the office of the president when the system’s longtime CEO departed, recruited a new leader with considerable experience in the local health care market, and maintained a strong institutional relationship with the Cuyahoga County Commissioners, who appointed the MetroHealth board and provided substantial financial support for the institution.
Rego’s selfless, entrepreneurial service to the people of Greater Cleveland sets a standard that challenges others to lead a life of compassion and dedication.
Rev. Richard E. Sering 1999
Champion of the Disenfranchised
Rev. Richard E. Sering received the 1999 Homer C. Wadsworth Award for his innovative and loving service to and advocacy on behalf of those otherwise friendless Clevelanders who are oppressed, forgotten and hurting.
Sering originally came to Cleveland in 1967 at the invitation of its Lutheran churches to help them assess their role in a divided, troubled city in the aftermath of the Hough disturbances. Here he became the founding director of the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry where he has served for more than 30 years with a humility and creativity that has helped Greater Cleveland address the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.
In every program that Sering has launched, there is a vision of wholeness and possibility for the disenfranchised people LMM serves: ex-offenders, at-risk youth, the disabled, and the elderly.
Sering’s quiet but effective leadership of the community’s march toward social justice springs from the content of his character. He is a person of great constancy, enthusiasm, and empathy — all of which have contributed to Sering’s innate ability to envision and inspire truly humane responses to human suffering.
Joseph B. Clough 1998
Pioneer in Gun Violence Prevention
Joseph B. Clough received the 1998 Homer C. Wadsworth Award for his passionate commitment, sustained over the course of 30 years, to finding ever more effective ways to prevent gun violence.
At a time when anyone could buy a gun at any time, Clough led the nation in advocating handgun control. Seeking to get at the root of the problem, he later spearheaded research into the psychological motivations of handgun use. Ultimately he focused on educational solutions, conceiving an innovative curriculum for high school students that heightened their awareness of the consequences of gun use. In short, Clough demonstrated a remarkable talent for analyzing a societal problem, planning methods for its amelioration, and then initiating practical action steps.
In 1976, interested in teaming advocacy and public education, Clough founded the Gun Safety Institute and served as its president for the next 20 years. Although he continued to campaign for handgun legislation on the local, state and national levels, he had come to believe that the true solution to the problem of handgun violence lay in changing people’s attitudes. With funding from the Gun Safety Institute, psychologist and center research director Jeremy P. Shapiro developed an instrument to measure attitudes toward guns and violence, the first of its kind. Clough’s untutored but astute perception that youth violence is in fact a mental health problem inspired Applewood Centers to adopt youth violence as a focus for ongoing research.
Clough’s determination remained undiminished as he approached his 90th birthday. With the support of a major grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Clough went on to develop a CD-ROM-based computer game that helps adolescents appreciate the real-life consequences of a choice to use violence.