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Philanthropy Multiplied: The John A. McAlonan Fund

The quest to be bigger and better: It’s what John A. McAlonan was all about. Born in Cuyahoga Falls in 1880, he earned a living moving from place to place across the country, holding a variety of occupations in the process.

John McAlonanBut he found his greatest success right here at home.

In 1916, McAlonan established Universal Motors Co. in the heart of Akron. The operation would later become one of the oldest and most successful Ford dealerships in the nation. It was so successful that by the time he died in 1964 at the age of 83, McAlonan had acquired an estate worth about $1.5 million, sizable by any time period’s standards, particularly the 1960s.

While he didn’t have any children and his wife had since passed, McAlonan still wanted to provide for his family, particularly his sister, Helen, who lived in California. His legacy would be one of giving back in big ways, both to her and the community that had given him so much.

When Helen died, his trust became a planned gift, a 20-year charitable remainder trust administered locally by a five-person advisory board. But in 1994, that advisory board voted to endow the remaining principal – $4.7 million – to begin the John A. McAlonan Fund of Akron Community Foundation. It was the largest fund in the community foundation’s history and a fitting tribute to the man who had mastered the art of preeminence.

The power of endowment

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But the story doesn’t stop there; it was only the beginning. Through the power of endowment, that initial $4.7 million has more than doubled in size to $11 million and has made more than $7 million in grants to initiatives all over town: from major exhibits at the Akron Art Museum to the aptly named John A. McAlonan Carriage Museum at the historic Hale Farm & Village.

In time, those numbers will continue to multiply, and McAlonan’s legacy will reach future generations of Summit County residents. The author of “bigger and better” can rest assured that in another 50 years, his story will still be giving back to the community that gave him his success.