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Flora Stone Mather: A Legacy of Philanthropy in Cleveland


portrait of flora stone mather

Flora Amelia Stone was born April 6, 1852 to Amasa and Julia Stone of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue. Amasa Stone, the New England-born entrepreneur, made his name and fortune in railroads, bridge-building, and banking. The Stones’ long history of philanthropy was ingrained in the upbringing of their three children, Adelbert, Clara, and Flora.


On October 19, 1881, Flora married her neighbor, Samuel Mather, a wealthy shipping and iron executive. While their marriage united two of the nation’s wealthiest families, the couple was recognized as a true love match. Together they had four children.


In 1883, Amasa Stone’s suicide left Flora responsible for dispensing a large inheritance. She felt it was her duty to dispense her father’s money in a way he would have wished. In honor of their father, Flora Stone Mather and her sister, Clara Stone Hay, built the Amasa Stone Chapel on the campus of Western Reserve University.


In 1888, Flora made her first large gift to Adelbert University, which was built and named for her brother, Adelbert Barnes Stone, who had drowned in 1865 after suffering a cramp while swimming in the Connecticut River. Flora was also one of the leading benefactors in the founding of Western Reserve University’s College for Women the same year. Her name was later given to the College in 1931 and it became known as Flora Stone Mather College for Women (FSMC) under the trusteeship of Western Reserve University.


Though Flora was a frail woman throughout her life, she did not slow her efforts to improve the lives of Cleveland residents and beyond. Flora founded the Goodrich House in honor of her childhood pastor, Rev. Wm. H. Goodrich, in 1896. She subsequently supported their outgrowth activities, including the Legal Aid Society and Consumers League of Ohio. The Home for Aged Women, The Children’s Aid Society, the Day Nursery Association, the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Associations, the Welfare Federation, struggling schools, churches, and colleges across the country were also among the organizations that benefited from Flora’s support.


Often working through other people, Flora never sought recognition for her efforts. Her pastor once said, “Mrs. Mather, it is easier to ask you for a contribution than to thank you for it,” to which she replied, “That is as it should be. It is more blessed to give than to receive.”


She explained: “I feel so strongly that I am one of God’s stewards. Large means without effort of mine, have been put into my hands: and I must use them, as I know my Heavenly Father would have me, and as my dear earthly father would have me, were he here.”

Flora passed away on January 19, 1909 at the age of 56 from breast cancer. In her will, she bequeathed gifts to over 30 educational, religious, and charitable institutions.


In 1912, Samuel Mather, their children, family, friends and alumnae continued Flora Stone Mather’s legacy of support for the College of Women by donating the Flora Stone Mather Memorial Building, the Mather House dormitory, and the Mather Gymnasium to Western Reserve University.


However, in 1967, the “Agreement of Consolidation” was approved by the boards of Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology. The last class to graduate from Flora Stone Mather College was 1972. The following year, the institution was absorbed into Western Reserve College, a new division of Case Western Reserve University, along with Adelbert and Cleveland Colleges.


The Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association was an active fundraising and networking organization of alumni from 1894 to its final meeting in 2008. The college’s legacy continues with the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, which was established with a donation from the alumnae association in 2003. On October 23, 2003, the Center for Women Dedication and Symposium was attended by more than 350 participants.


Today, The Flora Stone Mather Center for Women on Case Western Reserve University campus empowers all women and promotes gender equity and inclusion.


Throughout 2023, Case Western Reserve celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Mather Center and the Alumnae Association of the College for Women—as well as its benefactor and namesake, Flora Stone Mather.

More information on Flora20, The Exponential Power of Women and related events can be found at: https://case.edu/centerforwomen/about-us/20th-anniversary.


 

Meet the 20th Anniversary Flora Award Winners


In recognition of incredible women who exemplify the spirit & service of Flora Stone Mather

Alexandria (Alex) Johnson Boone, MSODA (GRS ’81) is the founder of Women of Color Foundation, an organization dedicated to the empowerment and advancement of minority women. Alex’s work provides myriad opportunities for professional development for women of color at many stages of life and on many career paths. 


Jeanette Grasselli Brown, PhD (GRS ‘58, HON ’95) was the first female director of corporate research at BP America. In addition to her many innovative research contributions, Jenny has done a great deal to work as a mentor and advocate for other women’s careers in the sciences through giving of her time and talent in addition to philanthropic support. 


Marilyn Burns is a long-time Cleveland resident and dedicated to her community, serving on local committees and boards and advocating for public housing tenants’ rights. She has also particular passion around community health, using her extensive expertise in her work with several organizations that promote well-being.


Beth Embrescia, MSSA LISW (SAS ’94) is a social worker, community advocate, governance enthusiast, and passionate participant in the lives of non-profit organizations. She has particular passion for supporting educational and mental health organizations, and is admired for her big aspirations which are backed up by dedicated execution.


Char Fowler established the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation along with her husband Chuck in 2001 to make an impact in Northeast Ohio. In the over twenty years the foundation has existed, Char has been dedicated to many philanthropic undertakings relating to healthcare, education, and the arts and consistently seeks new opportunities to be involved in her community.


Chann Fowler-Spellman is a Trustee of the Fowler Family Foundation and board member at several other Cleveland-area non-profits. Her contribution to these boards reflect her belief in Cleveland’s community spirit and the importance of investing in that spirit.


Holley Fowler Martens MSSA, LISW (SAS ’07) is the President of the Fowler Family Foundation and provided a great deal of guidance during the building renovation of the Mandel School for Applied Social Sciences. She is also passionate about youth-serving organizations and has volunteered with several institutions and programs throughout the country.


Norma Saphire Geller (SAS ’91) is a selfless and generous philanthropist, compassionate community volunteer to those less fortunate, and supporter of ovarian cancer research and social-justice initiatives who lives by her mantra, “When you see a need, act.” Among her many philanthropic initiatives for CWRU and the broader Cleveland community, she and her husband provided the lead gift for the Hillel Student Center, which provides support for Jewish students on campus.


Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH, CWRU Trustee (WRC ’77, MED ’81, HON ’06) was appointed the first woman director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002. In addition to her many impressive scientific and medical accomplishments, she is a tireless advocate for women and other marginalized populations and a dedicated philanthropist to many causes in healthcare and beyond.


Roe Green, CWRU Trustee has been nicknamed the “Fairy Godmother of the Arts” due to her passionate commitment to supporting the arts scene both in Cleveland and nationally. Her generosity and vision also extends to many other undertakings, including healthcare causes, domestic violence, Jewish community organizations, and the CWRU School of Law in honor of her father.


Joie Gregor (GRS ’74) was the first female recipient of the Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University and went on to have a trailblazing career in both industry and public service. Joie supports several scholarships at CWRU as well as many social and educational causes in the Cleveland area and nationally. 


Ka-Pi Hoh, PhD (CIT ’84; GRS ’87, ’89) has been an advocate for diversity during her time working for Lubrizol, including founding Women in Lubrizol Leadership. She also works with young women of many ages, including the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio and CWRU’s Women in Science and Engineering Roundtable (WISER) to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers and acts as a professional mentor.


Nancy Kurfess Johnson, MD (FSM ’49, MED ’54, GRS ’98) was a pioneering female OB/GYN and a leader for women physicians in the Cleveland area. In addition to her incredible career, Nancy has been a significant philanthropic support for CWRU and for arts organizations such as the Cleveland Orchestra.


Ellen Stirn Mavec, CWRU Emeriti Trustee has supported many organizations’ causes both personally, through her own philanthropy and volunteering, and as the president of the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, making key decisions in how to direct support from this organization to the Cleveland community. Ellen does a great deal to support Cleveland’s many museums, arts organizations, and healthcare providers, among other causes.


Marilyn Sanders Mobley, PhD (GRS ’97) was the first Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity and Chief Diversity Officer at CWRU and served for ten years. In addition to her many leadership roles and volunteer work, Marilyn’s scholarship and creative endeavors elevate the work of women, especially women of color, in the literary canon.


Beth Mooney (HON ’19) was the first female leader of one of the 20 largest banks in the United States, KeyBank, and led the company to incredible success and recognition while increasing diversity. In addition to her professional success and many honors and awards, Beth also supports several local and national organizations in areas such as the arts, education, and health.


Jacquelyn Nance, CWRU Trustee (LAW ’92) has led several high-profile local and national nonprofits, such as the LeBron James Family Foundation. In addition to her professional roles in these organizations, she also volunteers and routinely donates to many other organizations around Cleveland and across the country.


Iris Flaxman Hollander November (FSM ’53, LYS ’67) believes strongly in the importance of both financial support and volunteering her time, and lives out this belief with the many organizations she has supported and founded. Iris is involved with many causes and organizations throughout Cleveland, with a particular passion for those that benefit children.


Sandra Russ, PhD is a leading scientist in the field of psychology for her research on the connection between creativity and pretend play. Throughout her time at CWRU, she has also served on a great number of committees and founded initiatives to support women and minoritized faculty in their careers and in improving teaching.


Debra Wilfong, PhD, CWRU Trustee (CIT ’78; GRS ’82, ’85) has had many accomplishments in the field of polymer engineering throughout her career. In recognition of the mentorship she received while at CWRU, she, along with her wife, have created a scholarship for young women pursuing careers in STEM fields through their own CWRU education.


Margaret W. Wong has dedicated her forty-year law career to working as an immigration attorney, with offices now spanning nine cities. Just as her personal experiences as an immigrant drove her professional passions, her professional success has inspired her to dedicate her time and financial support to mentoring young professionals and organizations which support diverse lawyers.


Patricia B. Kilpatrick (FSM ’49, GRS ’51) (posthumous) was the first woman Vice President of CWRU. Pat was known not only for her dedicated service to the university and tireless advocacy for gender equity, but also for her compassionate interactions with the many students she met in her time at CWRU. 


Ann Amer Brennan (posthumous) was a supporter of dozens of organizations and nonprofits in the Northeast Ohio area. Her philanthropic interests covered everything from healthcare to the arts and of course Case Western Reserve University.

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