September 18, 2023

Kulas Foundation surprises retiring trustee with named CIM scholarship

Richard Clark in front of a guitar

The Kulas Foundation could have given Richard Clark almost anything when he retired last year after 15 years as executive vice president. 

No traditional gift, though, would have been anywhere near as meaningful or impactful as the honor it ultimately bestowed upon him: a long-term conservatory scholarship in his name at CIM. 

“That was the sweet spot,” said Clark of the gift, which he said caught him completely by surprise. “I never would have dreamt of having my name attached to a fund at CIM.”  

The gift, the latest of many from Kulas to CIM over the decades, creates a scholarship for conservatory students of classical guitar. It will be awarded to a deserving student annually for 15 years, the length of Clark’s tenure with the foundation. 

The choice of CIM was deliberate. Not only has Clark long held CIM in high regard; He also was once a student here. As an adult, he took a music theory course at CIM to prepare for a choral benefit concert.  

Even more inspired was the focus on guitar. Clark never studied the instrument formally, but it's one he’s owned and played for fun most of his life, including today. His favorite brand is Epiphone.  

“If you come to my home, you’ll see guitars scattered around the place,” Clark said. “I’m not a great guitar player, but I do have some great guitars.” 

Nancy McCann, president of the Kulas Foundation, said there’s more to the Clark scholarship than meets the eye.  

She described how the gifted fund builds on the long and fruitful relationship between CIM and Kulas, one that over more than 85 years has entailed gifts of pianos, student tickets to Cleveland Orchestra concerts, and naming rights to CIM’s crown jewel, Kulas Hall. Now, she said, thanks to Clark, that list includes scholarships.  

“We’re thrilled to celebrate Richard in a way that aligns so beautifully with everything he and the foundation care about,” McCann said. “For us, it’s a win-win.”  

Indeed, for Clark, the most special element of the scholarship is the legacy behind it. It’s a great honor, he said, to be the gift’s dedicatee, but even more meaningful to him is helping extend one of the region’s oldest and most distinguished philanthropic partnerships.  

Between them, CIM and the Kulas Foundation are “almost like a history of Cleveland,” Clark said. “It’s these long relationships that are really to be cherished.”