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Philanthropist Ends Boycott of City Causes

November 09, 2003|From Associated Press

CLEVELAND — The billionaire philanthropist who financed Case Western Reserve University's shiny, stainless-steel business school building, then decided the school was "diseased," has dropped his boycott on charities in the Cleveland area.

"My moratorium is over," Peter B. Lewis said to applause at a forum Friday. "It did whatever good it did, and it's over."

He said he's still disappointed with Cleveland in general, but pleased with changes at Case Western.

Lewis, chairman of insurer Progressive Corp., started his boycott in June to emphasize his disappointment with the composition of Case Western's board and the way in which the private school was run.

Lewis donated $36 million to the university's business school, designed by architect Frank Gehry. The south side of the building, which stands about five stories high, has a curving roof of stainless-steel shingles that seem to tumble to the ground.

Lewis was so upset with the management of construction of the building -- along with high administrative turnover, turmoil among trustees and declining academic rankings -- that he called Case Western "a diseased university that is collapsing and sucking Cleveland into a hole with it."

But Friday, Lewis gave new president Edward Hundert credit in his decision to call off his boycott on giving. Derek Bellin, Case Western's vice president for university relations, said Lewis' moratorium helped accelerate changes. The board adopted term and age limits and trimmed itself from 54 to 41 members.

However, the university has no plans to ask him for more money, Bellin said.

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