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Edwin Coupland Shaw (1863-1941)

Like most people of his time, Edwin Shaw was a transplant to Akron.

Headshot of Edwin Coupland ShawA growing career

Born in 1863 to a wealthy family in Buffalo, N.Y., Edwin Coupland Shaw earned a degree in engineering from Yale University in 1886. Upon graduating, Shaw left Buffalo for Akron to take a job with the city’s utility company. But within two years, he accepted a position with B.F. Goodrich Co., then in its infancy.

His work as a mechanical engineer laid the groundwork for the modern rubber industry and earned him acclaim from executives. In 1912, he became one of them and was appointed vice president of factory operations.

That same year, a month-long series of factory strikes thrust Shaw into the community and industry spotlight. He was the company’s de facto spokesperson and even testified before a Senate panel on factory work conditions. During that time, Shaw was forced to examine workers’ rights and his own responsibility to the less fortunate residents of Greater Akron. It marked a turning point in both his career and his life.

Finding a cure for tuberculosis

Another pivotal moment came when Shaw met Lawrence Hyde, head of the Springfield Lake Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Hyde convinced Shaw that tuberculosis could be cured and that the sanatorium should be a place where those afflicted could go to get well rather than die. From then on, Shaw devoted his life to helping residents who suffered from tuberculosis.

In 1934, county commissioners changed the name of the Springfield Lake Sanatorium to the Edwin C. Shaw Sanatorium. Hyde’s prediction came true: Tuberculosis was cured, and the facility was repurposed and renamed the Edwin Shaw Hospital for Rehabilitation.

Preserving his charitable vision

Shaw understood that as times changed, community needs would also change. And while he couldn’t live forever to meet those needs himself, his charity would keep his spirit of generosity alive for future generations. In Shaw’s will dated May 18, 1935, Shaw made good on his desire to create an institution that would “meet the changes in the community needs wrought by the passage of time and the variance in circumstances.” That wish would one day establish Akron Community Foundation.

Shaw’s decision was timely: In 1936, he was injured in a fall during a fishing trip in Michigan. Soon after, he was forced to carry on his crusade for a better community from his bed, where he remained until his death in 1941. “His death stuck deep into the awakening civic consciousness of his home city, for Shaw – as much as any other man of his time – played a great part in that awakening,” wrote Akron Beacon Journal reporter George Scriven of his passing.

Shaw’s impact today

That same consciousness lives on through grants from the Community Fund, which to date has distributed approximately $100 million to vital arts, civic, education, and health and human services programs that help Summit County residents.

It also perseveres through the Edwin C. Shaw Society, which honors charitable community members who – like Shaw – wish to continue their philanthropy forever by including Akron Community Foundation in their will.

To learn how you can join the Edwin C. Shaw Society, contact Margaret Medzie, vice president and chief development officer.