She was one of those feisty won’t-take-no-for-an-answer women who picketed the City Club back in the Dark Ages (before 1972) when women weren’t yet welcome as members. On November 9th, Judge Jean Capers, who turned 102 last January, will be inducted into the City Club’s Hall of Fame. But to hear about what came in between, well, you’ll have, as they say, to be there.
The former basketball star, citywide tennis champion, assistant state attorney and Cleveland Municipal Court Judge (did I mention she was the first black women elected to city council?) was too busy still practicing law (and protesting Chief Wahoo) as she neared 100 to make time for us to honor her. So we’re grabbing the chance.
She’ll be joined on the podium that day by four other amazing individuals whose work has touched your life, whether you know it or not—and one eloquent ghost. Come to think of it, he’s had a hand in shaping your world too.
Besides playing a key role in selecting and securing memorable City Club speakers for the better part of a decade, Len Calabrese has been a leading advocate, organizer and strategist on several faith-based justice initiatives here and at the national level. He chairs Notre Dame College’s interfaith Abrahamic Center, helped guide Bishop Pilla’s nationally recognized Church in the City initiative, and has served as president of the City Club, the First Friday Club of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga County Public Library Board. Amazingly, he finds time to read.
Jim Foster logged more than 2,200 hours of mission-ready flight time for the Air Force in three different fighter aircraft, played a role in launching the Gateway project and was a co-founder of the Budweiser 500 Indy Car Race (a.k.a. Cleveland Grand Prix)—before piloting the City Club for 20 years, out of the Age of the Typewriter and into the Digital Era. As Executive Director he delivered more than 1,500 forum speakers, including three U.S. Presidents, two foreign heads of state and more than 70 cabinet members. And does he have the stories!
As strategic philanthropists Bob and Sally Gries have been instrumental in launching and building some of the region’s most innovative programs and civic organizations. Not to mention endowing a record three annual forums at the City Club. Besides having spent 30 years as a successful Venture Capitalist and 50 involved with his beloved Cleveland Browns, Bob has himself competed—over three decades—as an endurance athlete, completing 104 adventures in 43 countries, from multi-day desert races to high-altitude mountain climbs and biking trips totaling 1,500 miles. Sally, among other achievements (which include serving on the boards of several of our most eminent institutions), founded the first female-owned money management and financial planning firm in Ohio.
As for the ghost who will be joining the other Hall of Fame inductees that noon: He is the late Ralph Hayes, who died in 1977. Born in 1884, Hayes was one of the Founding Fathers of the City Club and its first paid Secretary (administrator), as well as the first director of the New York Community Trust. It was Hayes who wrote the City Club’s celebrated Creed, adopted in 1916, the same year he was called to Washington to act as private secretary to the U.S. Secretary of War.
In crafting the Club’s guiding statement, he assumed the voice of the City Club itself:
“I hail and harbor and hear persons of every belief and party,” it begins, “for within my portals prejudice grows less and bias dwindles.” For 104 years we have done our best to be true to the ideals Ralph Hayes set before us, maintaining a vital public forum that is “as wholly uncensored as it is rigidly impartial. ‘Freedom of Speech’ is graven above my rostrum,” he wrote, “and beside it, ‘Fairness of Speech”—sentiments our present-day office seekers and political pundits would do well to emulate.
It will be our honor, on Monday, November 9th, to induct these six extraordinary individuals into the City Club’s Hall of Fame. We hope you'll join us on that occasion to applaud them all and hear what they have to say to us. And if you know one of these folks, all the more reason you should be there to help us say thanks for everything they’ve done. Call 216-621-0082 or visit the City Club's website for reservations.