University releases 2013-2014 Annual Report

President Snyder highlights international reach

Alexander Wheaton, Staff Reporter

Each year, Case Western Reserve University releases an annual report detailing university projects, finances and other campus developments. Past themes have included “The Bigger Picture,” “Who Would Have Thought,” “Think Ahead” and “Think by Numbers.”

This year’s theme, “Think Beyond the Possible,” isn’t just CWRU’s slogan. It refers to the university’s growing influence, innovation and ability to make a difference. Among all the numbers in the annual report were a few highlights of the CWRU community’s participation in Cleveland and around the world, in all disciplines, reaching as far as southeast Asia and the Antarctic.

CWRU’s School of Engineering made an appearance last year in the former Burmese capital of Yangon, where professor of chemical engineering Daniel Lacks helped train faculty at the newly reopened Yangon Technical University (YTU). YTU reopened last year when the government began Democratic reform and President Barack Obama lifted sanctions on the country and called for cultural exchange. Lacks later led 12 undergraduate students on a two-week cultural exchange trip to YTU, where they learned about the education, manufacturing and business systems in Yangon.

In Manot, a town in northern Israel, researchers from CWRU’s School of Dental Medicine participated in an archaeological dig that uncovered the teeth of Israeli cave dwellers from between 20,000-200,000 years ago. The discovery, which excavated a newly discovered cave on a hillside in Manot, was in cooperation with the University of Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion University. The remains of three individuals found in the cave have revealed information about their lifestyle and how human teeth have evolved over time. The dig also unearthed well-preserved stone tools and other bones. The DNA will be analyzed and compared with other findings to learn more about the cave dwellers’ ancestry.

The Department of Physics made history in 2013, when Professor of Physics and Astronomy John Ruhl traveled to the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica. There, he and other researchers confirmed the existence of B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background. Physics World magazine named the discovery one of the top 10 breakthroughs in 2013 and said the study “paves the way for a definitive test of inflation—a key theory in the Big Bang model of the universe.” Ruhl and his colleagues returned to the Antarctic this winter to deploy a balloon-borne telescope.

Closer to home, the Department of Biology collaborated with CWRU’s Squire Valleevue Farm to provide better nutrition for two gorillas at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The two gorillas, Bebac and Mokolo, both suffer from heart disease. Zoo officials immediately observed improvements in the animals’ health, citing better insulin and blood cholesterol levels. Since the beginning of the program in March, the zoo has received weekly orders of more than 300 pounds of leafy greens and hay from the farm.

The report also highlighted the work of the School of Nursing’s assistant professor Ronald Hickman, who received a $460,000 grant to develop software to help families make decisions regarding life-sustaining therapies for loved ones who are unable to make those decisions. The technology, called the Electronic Surrogate Decision Maker Resources and Tailored Training, is designed to educate families and give them resources about choices for the patient. It is the first avatar-based decision support technology.

Also working to improve our local and state community were students of the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic, who won the right to appear before the Ohio Supreme Court in a case defending the use of attorney fees to encourage parties involved in lawsuits to abide by discovery rules. The appeal is slated to go before the court sometime this winter.

The report also saw CWRU’s combined endowment grow to over $1.5 billion between 2013 and 2014, with an all time high of $151.6 million in gifts and pledges from private sources in 2014. In 2013, CWRU spent just 5.4 percent of that amount.

“We have a great development team and a lot of donors who care about CWRU,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Fundraising continues to be a success story at CWRU.”

Although donations and total revenue are at an all-time high, expenses are as well. CWRU’s operating surplus shrunk from $8.4 million to $7.2 million last year.

“It’s hard,” Snyder said, referring to the rising costs. “It’s all about choices and sometimes the choices are not easy.”

The usual suspects are to blame: rising healthcare costs and pay increases, for example.

“Increased costs haven’t been out of the ordinary, but they have been a challenge,” Snyder noted.

The report can be read in full online at