Scholarships, charity allow Cleveland native to further mother’s legacy

Scholarships, charity allow Cleveland native to further mother's legacy

courtesy ideastream.org

Stephanie Tubbs Jones represented the 11th Congressional District until her passing in 2008.

Tyler Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

“Coming from where she came from, she knew that a consistent improvement from the bottom up will always be more effective than from the top down,” Mervyn L. Jones II recalled of his mother, former congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Representing the 11th Congressional District, which includes most of downtown Cleveland and the eastern suburbs of Cuyahoga County, Tubbs Jones served Ohio in the United States House of Representatives for nearly a decade until her sudden death in August 2008.

During her career, she became the first African American to represent Ohio in the United States Congress. When she was named chairwoman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, she became the first African American to chair a standing house committee.

According to her son, Tubbs Jones drew influence from humble beginnings in Northeast Ohio. She attended nearby Collinwood High School and was a double alumna of Case Western Reserve University, earning a degree in social work from the Flora Stone Mather College in 1971 and a law degree from the CWRU School of Law in 1974.

Tubbs Jones was then elected to the Cleveland Municipal Court in 1981 and became the prosecutor for Cuyahoga County a decade later. She resigned in 1999 to assume her new role in Congress, where she became known for her colorful suits and even more colorful personality.

“She was loud, strict, loving, and always so supportive, even from afar,” explained Jones, who is the executive director of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Foundation, named in honor of his mother. “When I was playing sports and she couldn’t make it to one of my high school or college games, I would get a text message right before tipoff or right after the game.”

“It wasn’t just me she cared about, either; it was her nieces, her nephews, her mentees, and her friends,” Jones added. “I remember once in Congress she was trying to pass a bill that would help ex-cons get reintroduced into the community. She believed they did their time…and she wanted to help those in need of a second chance.”

Following the congresswoman’s passing, Jones was immediately approached regarding the construction and implementation of a foundation in her name. “After a while I was able to think about it, and I knew it would be a good idea,” he said.

Knowing that his mother was an organ donor, Jones first investigated charitable options regarding organ donation. “I did a lot of work with Lifebanc and Lifeline [of Ohio], but I thought it didn’t make sense to try to reinvent the wheel,” he recalled. “Then I thought about law school students…students in law school and who want to go to law school…and scholarships for them seemed like the right direction to go in because public service was [my mother’s] passion.”

The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Foundation has since raised $30,000 and has awarded $18,000 in scholarships to area students. The foundation was also able to purchase laptop computers for students mentored by Tubbs Jones. The students, a small group of girls, received the laptops in time for their senior year at Cleveland’s Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.

“My mother always said that if you know what you want to do and you’re good at it, go ahead and get the education to do it,” Jones explained. “My vision is to continue to give scholarships to law students, especially those who are in law school. Because, as we all know, law school is more expensive than undergraduate school.”

Supplementing his fundraising efforts, Jones hopes to use the foundation as a vehicle for experiential learning, and CWRU students are invited to participate. On Wednesday, March 28, Jones and Marilyn Mobley, university vice president for inclusion, diversity, and equal opportunity, will be the keynote speakers at a reception and information session focused on the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Foundation.

The event will begin at 4:45 p.m. in the Student Lounge and Room 115 of the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations on Bellflower Rd. Jones will explain the mission of the foundation and how CWRU students can be involved in shaping the foundation’s future while helping local students attend college.

“I hope that the law school students realize that there is a program that can possibly help them…and that students in the nonprofit school know that they can be a part of it…at both the board level and the program level,” he explained.

According to Jones, he wants students to be able to experience every part of running a nonprofit organization, from the boardroom discussions to the event planning, depending on their individual interests. He also believes CWRU is the ideal place to share his story and find students to bring into the foundation.

“[President] Snyder, Latisha James [director of the Center for Community Partnerships], and coach Sean McDonnell have been awesome in helping me,” said Jones. “I feel like building this foundation within the community is the best way to ensure that it is successful for a long time to come.”