News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 48: James Wood Williamson

Photo from Case Western Reserve University archives

Amount donated in 2011: $28.1-million

Biggest beneficiary: Case Western Reserve University

Donor’s background: Mr. Williamson was an industrial engineer at Ajax Tocco Magnethermic, in Warren, Ohio.

Mr. Williamson, who was 93 when he died in 2009, left $23.5-million to Case Western Reserve University for scholarships, professorships, and programs at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Medicine, and the Case School of Engineering.

While Mr. Williamson did not attend the university, his family had a long history with the institution. His great-grandfather, Samuel Williamson, practiced law with Leonard Case Jr. in the early 1800s and helped found the college that would eventually become Case Western Reserve University. The donor’s grandfather, James DeLong Williamson, was an 1870 alumnus and served two tenures as president of the university.

After he retired from his engineering career, Mr. Williamson devoted his time to statistics and developing census data software for use by scholars and policy makers studying poverty.

In addition, Mr. Williamson bequeathed $2.6-million to the Church of the Covenant, in Cleveland. Although Mr. Williamson’s grandfather was one of three founding ministers of the church, Mr. Williamson was not involved with the church during his lifetime.

“This came totally out of the blue,” said the Rev. Robert J. Campbell, the church’s senior minister and head of staff.

Mr. Campbell said the bequest had no restrictions, so church officials are directing $1.6-million to its endowment and the rest to a major projects fund, to be named for Mr. Williamson.

The donor also left $2-million to the Center for Community Solutions, a human-services group, also in Cleveland.

—Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011