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Oberlin College gets $12M in gifts


OBERLIN — On the eve of inaugurating a new president, Oberlin College on Thursday announced it received three $4 million gifts.
The money will be used for a new home for jazz studies and for environmental programs.

College President Marvin Krislov, who will be inaugurated today as Oberlin College’s 14th president, said the $12 million in gifts “celebrate the leadership, creativity, and innovative spirit found throughout Oberlin College.”

“Oberlin is a place where solutions to environmental issues are explored, and where the frontiers of music are expanded,” Krislov said.

The $4 million donations come from:

• Clyde McGregor, an investment manager in Chicago, a 1974 Oberlin College graduate and a member of the college’s Board of Trustees. His gift to the Phyllis Litoff Building for jazz studies is being made in honor of his mother, Lilly Marie Smith, a 1943 Oberlin College graduate.

Joseph Clonick, a 1957 Oberlin to the jazz studies building now total $5 million. The contributions from Clonick, a Chicago pianist, will support a recording studio and performance space.

An anonymous Cleveland area family asked that $2.5 million of its $4 million gift fund an endowed chair in environmental studies. The College has agreed to match the gift with a second endowed chair.

An additional $1 million of the family’s $4 million gift will be dedicated to technological upgrades within the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies. And the remaining $500,000 will be used by the college and the city of Oberlin to study ways to conserve energy and find cleaner ways to generate electricity.

City Council President Daniel Gardener said the donation could help the city, which owns and operates its own electric utility, to find alternatives to making a 40-year commitment to a new coal-fired plant in southern Ohio. The city has until March to back out of its earlier decision to participate in the coal-fired plant.

Oberlin College Professor David Orr, a pioneer in the field of environmental studies, said the $500,000 “will allow us to hire the best minds to address environmental issues and pursue energy conservation studies.”

With these most recent donations, funding for the Litoff jazz building has reached $17 million, said Ernest Iseminger, vice president of development and academic affairs. The building will cost $20 million with an extra $2 million needed for an endowment, Iseminger said.

Cleveland businessman Stewart Kohl, a 1977 Oberlin College graduate, and his wife, Donna, launched the Litoff building project in 2005 with a gift of $5 million. They were friends of the late Litoff, who, with her husband, Mel, founded the Greenwich Village Jazz Festival.

Construction of the Litoff building, which will house the conservatory’s jazz studies department and its music history and music theory programs, is expected to start in the spring.

The building will include a recording studio and what is being called the largest privately held jazz recording collection in the United States, a gift from James and Susan Neumann of Chicago. James Neumann is a 1958 graduate of Oberlin College.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or 

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