November 21, 2019

CIM Student Lounge Dedicated as the Ellen and Joe Thomas Student Commons

Thomas Commons

Ellen and Joe Thomas’ extraordinary commitment to the Cleveland Institute of Music over the last 25 years has risen in a crescendo thanks to a $600,000 gift dedicated to scholarships for students at the legendary conservatory. This new gift takes the Thomas’ overall philanthropic commitment to CIM over $1.2 million.

To celebrate the Thomases and demonstrate immense gratitude for their passion for CIM and its students, the Institute has named its student lounge the Ellen and Joe Thomas Student Commons.

The new Thomas Commons is a vibrant space where students can relax, chat, play games, watch concert broadcasts and engage with each other or collaborate on projects. Its large windows provide natural light and access to the terrace. The space was formally dedicated on Wednesday, November 20, followed by a reception that included the Thomases, President and CEO Paul W. Hogle, President of CIM’s Student Government Association Rachel Lauson and fellow students, faculty and staff.

The Thomases, who reside in the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike, began giving to CIM more than 25 years ago, and both have served the Institute in many ways – Joe Thomas, 86, has been a CIM Trustee since July 1996, serving as Chair of the Investment Committee and in numerous other capacities. Ellen Thomas, 79, has served on CIM’s Women’s Committee for just as many years, including time on the committee’s board. They also are members of CIM’s 1920 Society, which honors those who have included CIM in their estate plans and is named for the year the Institute was founded.

Joe and Ellen Thomas

The gift establishes the Ellen and Joe Thomas Endowed Fund and will provide critical scholarship support to the world’s most talented classical music students who are invited to study at the Institute. The increased support helps move forward CIM’s bold strategic plan, Blueprint:100, which calls for CIM to have more dollars available to attract the next generation of the world’s most talented classical music students. CIM has raised more than $13.5 million for scholarships in the last 15 months.

“Ellen and Joe’s support throughout the years has benefited every aspect of Cleveland’s legendary conservatory,” Hogle said. “I can’t think of a more fitting way to recognize their generosity through the years which drives us to provide the exceptional, highest quality education the world has come to expect. This significant gift is an expression of confidence in CIM and the future of classical music.”

SGA President Lauson was generous in thanking the Thomases for their support of the scholarships that help make a CIM education possible.

“On behalf of all of us on the Student Government Association, we are thrilled that this space will now be named in your honor,” said Lauson, who then broke the news that the couple has committed an additional $5,000 to provide additional enhancements to Thomas Commons.

“Members of student leadership met recently with President Hogle and we have made a number of recommendations – many of which you will be able to see today: seating, lighting, plants, games, electronics and a community gathering table – all possible because of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas’ generosity,” Lauson added.

The Thomases also are stalwart supporters of Northeast Ohio as a whole. In October, they helped break ground on downtown Cleveland’s first public playground for which they donated the $110,000 needed to build it. Once completed, the 1,575 square-foot playground near the Great Lakes Science Center and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will feature slides and climbing apparatuses for children to play on. They also have gifted funds for other playgrounds in the region, mostly at local schools.

Among their other civic involvements, they have been hailed by the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeast Ohio for providing an annual cash award for epilepsy research at The Cleveland Clinic. The Thomases recently made a significant gift to the Clinic to name the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

Following a career at McDonald and Company – including serving as managing partner and a director of the New York Stock Exchange – Joe Thomas founded American Asset Management Company in 1983 and is currently president of investment advisory firm Thomas & Co. He also has served as a director of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association (now the Greater Cleveland Partnership), a trustee of the City Club of Cleveland and chair of the former St. Luke’s Hospital where he was presented an Edward Myers outstanding trustee award. His service on the boards of many other area organizations includes University Circle Inc., which presented him with its Joseph D. Pigott University Circle Leadership Award in 2017. Established in 2001, the award is given annually to an individual who is a champion for collaboration and growth in University Circle. He currently serves as a trustee of the Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement board, emeritus trustee of Case Western Reserve University and a life trustee of Denison University, where he graduated in 1956.

In addition to her charitable work throughout the area, Ellen Thomas is an active member of the CIM Women’s Committee, serving as a great source of support and providing her time to benefit the lives of the school’s students. She has served as a member of the committee’s board and as chair of benefit committees, as well as charitable organizations in the region including The Children’s Guild of Cleveland.

In paying tribute to the Thomases, Hogle reflected on their years of service and altruism not only to CIM but to the rest of the local community.

“CIM and Cleveland are privileged to have such warm, compassionate friends and forward-thinking leaders as Ellen and Joe Thomas. In addition to their fervent support and generosity, as well as their service to the CIM Board of Trustees and Women's Committee, they have been personally very inspiring to me," Hogle said. "Their investment in the Institute and its students will pay dividends for classical music organizations around the globe and here at home in Cleveland. Establishing the Ellen and Joe Thomas Endowed Fund and Thomas Commons further cements their legacies as champions of classical music, ensuring that the next generation of our students will continue to benefit and thrive in their future careers.”