Remarks by President Ronald M. Berkman at the Medical Mutual/Smart Business Pillar Awards



Thank you, Rick Chiricosta, for that very kind introduction.

Rick embodies all of the qualities that the Kent Clapp Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes.

Rick and Medical Mutual have given so much to this community and touched so many institutions and lives.

Let’s take a moment to applaud their devotion to the greater good.


I’m honored to accept the Kent Clapp Lifetime Achievement Award.

It’s especially humbling to be mentioned in the same breath as the late Kent Clapp, a community leader who set the bar for community engagement so high as chairman, president and CEO of Medical Mutual.

May we honor his memory by carrying on his remarkable legacy of community-building.


I’m most grateful to everyone at Medical Mutual and Smart Business for this recognition, especially Rick and the Host Committee Chairs: Umberto Fedeli, Dr. Alex Johnson and Fred Koury.


Let me also offer my heartfelt congratulations to the other honorees tonight.

It’s truly inspiring to share this special occasion with all of you.


From the moment I became president of Cleveland State University in 2009, one of my foremost priorities has been strengthening the connections between our campus and the community at large.

As an urban university dedicated to preparing an educated workforce, CSU pursues collaborative partnerships to enhance the academic experience of our students, while at the same time addressing the larger needs of Northeast Ohio.


The rich resources of a city such as Cleveland represent a major advantage for CSU.

Therein also lie golden opportunities for partnerships that enact change for the benefit of students, the university and the community itself.


As I recently told Dustin Klein of Smart Business, it’s easy to initiate partnerships – but sustaining them is the tricky part.

Partnerships can’t be viewed as a short-term proposition.

To succeed, they require attention and nurturing.


As an anchor institution amid the urban landscape, CSU has an obligation to help tackle the grand challenges of our region.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone.


I’m happy to report that we’ve made tremendous progress along these lines, with vital support from key community partners, for-profit and not-for-profit alike.

Allow me to share a few examples.


In our quest to create a vibrant neighborhood with the CSU campus as its nucleus, we knew that great neighborhoods need great schools.

In partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, CSU has developed an Education Park in downtown Cleveland.

We now have two CMSD schools right on our campus: Campus International School and MC2STEM High School.

Both of these nationally recognized schools are creating pathways to higher education for young students in our community.


Despite Cleveland’s well-deserved reputation for world-class health care, we saw unmet health-care needs in city neighborhoods.

So CSU teamed up with Northeast Ohio Medical University to create the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health.

This collaboration seeks to meet growing workforce demands and reduce health disparities in neighborhoods across the community by training a more culturally competent, diverse group of health-care professionals.


In partnership with Playhouse Square and Cleveland Play House, CSU has created an Arts Campus in the heart of the second-largest performing-arts center in the nation.

This means not only that our students hone their skills alongside working professionals in the arts, but that the community can enjoy CSU theatre and dance productions in the Allen Theatre complex or view exhibitions by artists of all kinds in The Galleries at CSU.

Also on the Arts Campus, CSU’s new School of Film and Media Arts soon will take shape on the top floor of the Idea Center at Playhouse Square.

Launched with $7.5 million in capital funding from the State of Ohio, it will be the only standalone film school in Ohio – and one of the few between the East Coast and the West Coast.

The school will uniquely prepare future screenwriters, directors, cinematographers and others for careers in the burgeoning film and media arts industries, in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

CSU also has many valued partners in the corporate community.

We’re proud of our longstanding partnership with Medical Mutual.

It covers everything from invaluable internship opportunities for CSU students to CSU’s Medical Mutual Tennis Pavilion, the only all-weather tennis facility on a Horizon League campus – and the only one of its kind in downtown Cleveland.

Thanks to the incredible support of Don and Pam Washkewicz and the Parker Hannifin Foundation, CSU’s Washkewicz College of Engineering will prepare future generations of engineers in a state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot new facility set to open next month.

Our partnership with Parker Hannifin also includes a groundbreaking Human Motion and Control Lab, where researchers are making life-changing advances for people with mobility challenges.

Our friends at GE provide full-tuition scholarships for students pursuing a science, technology, engineering or math major at CSU.

GE also is part of our MC2STEM High School partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

MC2STEM students spend 10th grade at GE Lighting’s Nela Park campus before moving to CSU.

They complete their final two years in the KeyBank Classrooms for STEM Education at CSU, where they receive a firm academic foundation in science, technology, engineering and math.

These are just a few examples of the thriving symbiosis between campus and community that makes Cleveland State University a special place.

Others are taking notice, too.

According to a recent data-driven study by the Brookings Institution, CSU is No. 18 in the U.S. among public universities that fulfill a critical dual mission: providing upward mobility AND conducting vital research.

CSU is the only Ohio university in the top tier of the Brookings list.

When it comes to improving lives and expanding knowledge, CSU is proud to be counted among the best of the best.


Thank you once again for this wonderful honor.

Serving as president of Cleveland State University has been the high point of my career in higher education.

All of us at CSU are so proud to call Cleveland home.

Day after day… week after week… year after year… through our work at the University, we strive to elevate and enrich the community.

In closing, let me leave you with a favorite quote of mine by Coretta Scott King, who once said:

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

If you want to know what makes Cleveland such a great community, look no further than all the compassion we have represented in the room here this evening.

Thank you.