Mayerson Family Foundations
 
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It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of
Manuel D. Mayerson, our donor, founder and leader.



“Do you know what was even better than making my first million dollars?” Manuel Mayerson once asked a group of young professionals who had gathered to hear him speak about his long and successful career as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. “It was giving away my first million dollars!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

That was Manuel D. Mayerson… a truly extraordinary man who raised the bar for us all and was a role model for how to construct a good life.

Manuel “Manny” Mayerson was a first generation American of Russian immigrant parents. His work ethic was forged in the crucible of the Great Depression. His family values were transmitted clearly and strongly from his parents and extended family – values that included dedication to family, community, country, and the Jewish people. And, he was endowed with a strong mind and character, a bright spirit, and unusual amounts of creativity and perceptiveness. He wrapped all of this together and lived out his life fully, coloring each every inch of the canvas of his life. He applied his motto for business to his entire life – to put all assets to their highest and best use. And that he did.

A pioneer in the shopping center industry, Manuel was an early member and State Director of the International Council of Shopping Centers. When President Eisenhower came out with a plan to build an interstate highway system across the country, Manuel, a keen visionary, knew that this new plan would make it possible for people to live further from the city, and that they would soon need convenient shopping. At the early age of 28 he built his first shopping center and went on to build others, among them being Cincinnati’s first two indoor shopping malls in Beechmont and Kenwood.

Manuel established the Mayerson Company in 1949 and quickly became known for his creativity, integrity and “sixth sense” regarding business ventures. He saw ways to make deals happen when others could not. Over the years, he distinguished himself in brokerage, development, management, and acquisition of real estate. In addition to developing, owning and managing multifamily residential communities and landmark commercial properties in downtown Cincinnati, he was the first of Cincinnati’s downtown office building owners to recognize the importance of lighting up the downtown skyline, lighting the Central Trust Tower (now PNC Bank Building) as the sole light in the Queen City’s skyline. Most all other buildings have since followed suit. A pinnacle of his real estate career was his development of Cincinnati’s premiere Class A downtown office building – the Scripps Center. From envisioning how an old garage could be used as a strategic location, to being intimately involved in designing, constructing, leasing and managing the building…he brought his talents and experience together to create this crowning achievement.

While he was developing his career, he and his wife, Rhoda, were active in the community. From sharing their time and talent on many boards, to providing turkey dinners during Thanksgiving for those who could not afford to on their own, to sharing their wealth when it was modest and when it was large, Manuel and Rhoda were well known for their passion, intelligence, integrity and contributions over many, many years. Ultimately this led to another crowning achievement, the creation of The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, the family foundation that he established with his beloved wife in 1986. Its Board is comprised of his family and reflects the motto that he and Rhoda have often mentioned – to “give while you live”.

Over the past 25 years the Foundation has had a profound impact on the Greater Cincinnati community and beyond and has touched the lives of many thousands of people from all walks of life. “I don't want anyone to think for a minute that this foundation was founded by my wife and I,” Manuel was quoted as saying in a 2002 article about the Foundation which appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It was founded generations before me, though not with money. It was founded by my ancestors on the traditions and heritage of sharing, and their attitude toward the community,” he explained.

And while The Mayerson Foundation has given away millions of dollars over the years, Manuel always insisted that the focus shouldn’t be on how much the Foundation gives, but rather on how much good it can accomplish. As much a visionary in philanthropy as he was in business, he never wanted to just be a “check writer” and always worked to find creative ways to solve problems and to be involved. Known for its innovation and involvement, and in keeping with Manuel’s admonition to use all assets to their highest and best potential, the Foundation strives to play a catalytic role with its grantees by providing both human as well as financial resources to support them in their efforts to make a significant impact on people’s lives and the community.

The work of the Mayerson Family Foundation is broad and far reaching but represents the issues that Manuel held dear. First and foremost, he wanted to support the Jewish community and felt that work related to continuity was of the highest importance. He believed that in order to preserve and grow the Jewish community it was essential that it be welcoming to all – orthodox, conservative, reform, religious, or not. To that end, Manuel was an advocate for and Governor of the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute on Religion. In this role, he helped to establish Mayerson Hall, which housed the College’s first distance learning technology equipment, the Fieldwork Institute which pairs rabbinic students with congregational rabbis to learn about practical matters, and contributed to Student Scholarship Funds, recruitment efforts, the Archives, and much more.

As the Foundation grew, new Jewish programming was created that provides opportunities to Jewish young adults (Access), families with young children (Shalom Family) and interfaith couples (Fusion) to make connections to other Jews thereby creating new relationships that strengthen the fabric of the Jewish community. Nothing pleased Manuel more than learning of a new marriage that could trace its initial spark back to the work of the Jewish Giving Department of the Foundation.

The most significant single grant the Foundation made was to help build the new state of the art Jewish Community Center, The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson JCC in Amberley. Through this investment Manuel hoped to create a place of vibrancy where Jews of all denominations could come together with non-Jews to experience recreational, cultural and arts activities as well as build community. The Foundation continues to provide support to the JCC through staffing the Young Professionals’ YPs at the JCC Program.

The Foundation also operates the regional headquarters of BBYO, the world’s largest pluralistic Jewish teen movement. Other projects in the Jewish community funded by the Mayerson Foundation include the Hebrew Free Loan Society that Manuel created in the 1980’s to assist Jewish families in need with free loans to begin businesses; the Jewish National Fund’s Inclusive Parks Initiative in Israel, Jewish Funds for Justice providing Israeli technology for agriculture and irrigation projects to the Navajo nation and many, many others.

In Greater Cincinnati, the Foundation is an annual contributor to The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and has provided support to nearly every organization in the Jewish community including Jewish Family Service, Rockwern Academy, Jewish Vocational Service, Cedar Village, Camp Livingston, Cincinnati Hillel, Cincinnati Hebrew Day School, and many others.

Manuel also felt strongly about giving opportunities to those who were in difficult circumstance through no fault of their own. His heart broke for children who were ill or suffered abuse and so for years he served on the board of Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati as well as initiated the Mayerson Center for Safe & Healthy Children, supported the Treatment Center of Hematology and Oncology and its Bone Marrow Transplant Unit as well as many other initiatives of the hospital. Most recently, due to Manuel’s strong interest in leveling the playing field for the most vulnerable, the Foundation provided both capital and operating support to Lighthouse Youth Services to build a new shelter for homeless youth.

Manuel was deeply impressed with the work of the FreeStore/FoodBank and while he always advocated to “teach a man to fish” he also recognized the importance of having basic needs met and knew that work of the The Mayerson Food Distribution Center would make a significant difference in lives of so many across the region.

Manuel always strived for excellence in all that he did and he knew that high quality education started with excellent teachers. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Mayerson Academy for Human Resource Development which provides public school teachers with training on best practices in education in a state of the art facility.

Manuel’s dedication to Tikkun olam wasn’t just something he practiced himself. He wanted others to learn of the power of giving. He and Rhoda were dedicated to The Mayerson High School Service Learning Program which supports high schools to develop and maintain programs in which hundreds of students learn to serve others. Additionally, the Foundation partnered with Northern Kentucky University to create the first university based student philanthropy program that has now become a national model.

Both Manuel and Rhoda were moved by art. They always wanted others to be able to experience the joy they felt when in the presence of great art. The Foundation, as well as Manuel and Rhoda individually, supported almost all of the local arts organizations including the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Art Museum (including creating the Mayerson Lecture Series and scholarships). Most significantly, the Foundation participated in the effort to create the New School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Over-the-Rhine as well as creating a fund for Artistic Excellence to support high quality programming in the school.

Other significant efforts supported by Manuel and the Foundation include the VIA Institute on Character which is a world leader in the scientific study of what’s best in human beings; and, the Disabilities Rights, Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), a pioneer in the disability civil rights movement.
Known for giving of his time as well as his financial resources, Manuel was active in numerous organizations over many decades, serving on a variety of boards. In addition to those already mentioned, he also served on the board of Adath Israel Congregation, The Contemporary Arts Center, The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, ADL, The Cincinnati Zoo, National Conference for Community and Justice, The Cincinnati Art Museum, The Freestore / Foodbank, and The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the Hebrew Free Loan.

Manuel also felt strongly about giving opportunities to those who were in difficult circumstance through no fault of their own. His heart broke for children who were ill or suffered abuse and so for years he served on the board of Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati as well as initiated the Mayerson Center for Safe & Healthy Children, supported the Treatment Center of Hematology and Oncology and its Bone Marrow Transplant Unit as well as many other initiatives of the hospital. Most recently, due to Manuel’s strong interest in leveling the playing field for the most vulnerable, the Foundation provided both capital and operating support to Lighthouse Youth Services to build a new shelter for homeless youth.

Manuel was deeply impressed with the work of the FreeStore/FoodBank and while he always advocated to “teach a man to fish” he also recognized the importance of having basic needs met and knew that work of the The Mayerson Food Distribution Center would make a significant difference in lives of so many across the region.

Manuel always strived for excellence in all that he did and he knew that high quality education started with excellent teachers. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Mayerson Academy for Human Resource Development which provides public school teachers with training on best practices in education in a state of the art facility.

Manuel’s dedication to Tikkun olam wasn’t just something he practiced himself. He wanted others to learn of the power of giving. He and Rhoda were dedicated to The Mayerson High School Service Learning Program which supports high schools to develop and maintain programs in which hundreds of students learn to serve others. Additionally, the Foundation partnered with Northern Kentucky University to create the first university based student philanthropy program that has now become a national model.

Both Manuel and Rhoda were moved by art. They always wanted others to be able to experience the joy they felt when in the presence of great art. The Foundation, as well as Manuel and Rhoda individually, supported almost all of the local arts organizations including the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Art Museum (including creating the Mayerson Lecture Series and scholarships). Most significantly, the Foundation participated in the effort to create the New School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Over-the-Rhine as well as creating a fund for Artistic Excellence to support high quality programming in the school.

Other significant efforts supported by Manuel and the Foundation include the VIA Institute on Character which is a world leader in the scientific study of what’s best in human beings; and, the Disabilities Rights, Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), a pioneer in the disability civil rights movement.
Known for giving of his time as well as his financial resources, Manuel was active in numerous organizations over many decades, serving on a variety of boards. In addition to those already mentioned, he also served on the board of Adath Israel Congregation, The Contemporary Arts Center, The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, ADL, The Cincinnati Zoo, National Conference for Community and Justice, The Cincinnati Art Museum, The Freestore / Foodbank, and The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the Hebrew Free Loan.

Over the course of his lifetime, Manuel was honored for his outstanding achievements in business and community life with a number of distinguished awards, including the Realtor of the Year Award from the Cincinnati Realtors Association, William Howard Taft Americanism Award given by the Anti-Defamation League, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, The American Judaism Award from Hebrew Union College, the Ernest L. Talbert Award from the Talbert House, The Distinguished Service Citation from The National Conference of Christians and Jews, Inc., and elevation by the Supreme Council of Masons to the Exclusive 33rd Degree and in 1993, Manuel and his wife Rhoda were also recognized by Cincinnati Magazine as the “Best Philanthropists.”

Above all of his achievements in the community, Manuel valued family most deeply. He carried the love and support of his parents and felt a deep and abiding pride in who they were and what it meant to be a Mayerson. He lived his life in honor of that family name and tradition. Manuel knew the second he laid eyes on his wife, Rhoda that he was going to marry her. She has been the love of his life for the past 68 years and a perfect partner in living a storied romance. Together they are the parents of Frederic (wife Dawna), Arlene (husband Allan), Neal (wife, Donna), and the grandparents of Amanda, Adam and Emma.


Copyright ©2009 Mayerson Family Foundations
312 Walnut Street ♦ Suite 3600 ♦ Cincinnati, OH 45202 ♦ 513-621-7500 info@mayersonfoundation.org
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