Wean takes philanthropy in the Valley to higher level

The best philanthropists know that there’s more to philanthropy than writing checks.

And among philanthropists, Gordon Wean is one of the best of the best.

Last week he was in Columbus receiving the Ohio Philanthropy Award.

In announcing Wean’s selection, Suzanne T. Allen, president of Philanthropy Ohio, which gave the lifetime achievement award, said it “recognizes his volunteer philanthropic service in many organizations aimed at improving the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.”

Those who have known and worked with Wean in the Mahoning Valley will say that that’s an understatement. It is not an overstatement to say that Wean has had a transformational influence on how philanthropy works in the Valley. It works smarter, and it works better.

Paul M. Dutton, a lawyer in the Valley for 40 years who has served on countless nonprofit fundraising campaigns and boards of directors, credits Wean with taking philanthropy in the Valley “from a reactive process, whereby funders simply filled holes in agency budgets to a proactive approach which identifies specific social, educational and economic needs important to the funder.”

Wean doesn’t throw money at a problem, he encourages – even demands – people to work together on projects that will solve problems, strengthen the community and improve people’s lives.


Wean grew up in Palm Beach, Fla., and now lives in Cleveland, but his ties to the Valley are historical and strong. He is chairman of the board of directors of the Raymond John Wean Foundation, which was founded in 1948 by his grandfather, R.J. “Jack” Wean. The business enterprises that bore the family name during the height of the Valley’s industrial might have been consigned to history. As the world economy changed, multinational corporations swallowed up companies that had dominated the landscape in postwar America, and Wean was one of the many proud names that no longer appear on the sides of plants or factories.

But the family name is being perpetuated by its charitable foundation, not only on the front of its downtown Warren headquarters, which won awards for the rehabilitation of an historic structure, but through the grants the foundation awards and the philosophies that it advocates.

And Gordon Wean, who practiced law in Warren for a few years after receiving his law degree from Ohio State University, has done more than anyone today to keep the family name alive here. Though he moved to Cleveland Heights to teach English at University School, he has maintained his connections here.

Wean is a board member of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, as well as the Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation. He also serves on the board of Village Capital Corporation, a nonprofit organization that finances real-estate projects in Northeast Ohio that have community support and advance the strategic efforts of a community.


Shari Harrell, president of the CFMV, says that Wean was instrumental in the foundation’s transition from one focused on attracting funds to one focused on strategic philanthropy and community impact.

As Dutton says, Wean stresses collaboration among agencies seeking funding for a common purpose and puts a high premium on accountability. Dutton quotes Wean as saying he “does not wish to fund organizations which do not need the funds nor know how to use the funds.”

Warren Atty. John L. Pogue joined the Wean board when it was making the transition from a closely held family foundation to what it has become, and he calls what Gordon Wean was able to do “remarkable.”

One reflection of that transformation will be on display Thursday at Youngstown State University when the foundation hosts Summit ’15, a daylong seminar during which experts in planning, finance and collaboration work with people involved in the Valley’s nonprofit sector.

But the work that Gordon Wean has been doing with the foundation that bears the family name with other causes benefiting from his counsel will pay dividends past tomorrow and will touch lives for generations to come.

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