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Rooted in Philanthropy

Ed Schrank portrait
Ed Schrank

When Ed Schrank celebrated his 90th birthday with friends and family members two years ago, his most memorable gift was not something he received, but something he gave.

A lifelong resident of Northeast Ohio, Ed rented a bus and took his large family on a tour of all the places that formed him into the man he is today - a man who unsurprisingly values family and community above all else.

Considering his deep roots in the community, the tour had many stops: the Munroe Falls neighborhood where he spent his youth; his former Akron home on Twin Oaks Road; and the University of Akron, whose Harry P. Schrank Hall bears the name of his father and where Ed went to school for a time before joining the U.S. Navy.

"It was a fun trip," he recalls. "And I had all these places that I knew as a kid. We went all over Munroe Falls, Stow, Fairlawn and downtown Akron, and it was the chance of a lifetime. I was able to share it with most of my friends and relatives, who were glad to have the experience with me."

Now almost 92, Ed's recollection of his life events is vivid and detailed, and he wistfully rattles off specific dates, locations and names that are interwoven with Akron's more recent history.

His restored 1850s farmhouse in Bath features a portrait of a young Ed in English riding gear with hounds at his feet. When asked if fox hunting was a typical pastime of his, Ed nonchalantly quips, "Oh, we went every Wednesday and Sunday with the Firestones," referring to Akron tire magnate Raymond Firestone.

Ed's family is part of Akron's storied rubber history, too, with his father serving as president of Seiberling Rubber Company in the 1960s and Ed himself working as an executive in production and engineering. Prior to his successful career, Ed served in the U.S. Navy and earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. In 1947, he returned to Akron for a position at Seiberling while continuing to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve for nearly a decade.

A Culture of Giving

Ed's return home signaled the start of a new season that would eventually bring him four children, seven grandchildren (who lovingly refer to him as "Grumpy"), and eight great-grandchildren throughout his life. In September 1948, he married the late Joan McCague Andrews, whom he fondly describes as "a wonderful lady." Their 33-year marriage would certainly have spanned the decades had Joan not passed away much too soon in 1981 following a courageous battle with lung cancer.

While Ed typically speaks candidly, it's clear talking about his wife still brings heartache. "I miss her," he says simply.

Throughout the trials and triumphs of his life, serving the community was, and still is, a priority for Ed, something that was modeled by his own parents. Like his father, Ed volunteered on many nonprofit boards, including the Boy Scouts, United Way of Summit County, American Red Cross and Junior Achievement.

And just as his parents shared their charitable values with him, so too did Ed share his love of giving back with his growing family. He served on the board of Akron Community Foundation from 1991 to 2000, a relationship that led him to establish the Schrank Family Fund, a donor-advised fund, in 1993. That fund has since inspired several of his family members to establish their own charitable funds, including his daughter Laurie Harkey and grandson-in-law Christopher Hendryx.

Laurie and her husband, Bill, established their fund at the community foundation in August 2017, following the conversion of their private family foundation. She attributes her charitable nature to both of her parents.

"I will say my mother also set the example," says Laurie. "As a child growing up, we all served with their good works, whether it was scouting, pony club, or my mother volunteering at Akron General Hospital. So, between the two of them, I really picked up on that 'do-good' mentality, to give back to the community. I also became a social worker, so I think helping was in my blood."

Ed's decision to establish the Schrank Family Fund came after serving as chair of the grantmaking committee at Akron Community Foundation, where he saw the community's broad range of needs firsthand.

In 2014, after more than two decades of recommending grants from his donor-advised fund, Ed chose to change his fund's designation to a field-of-interest fund, which allowed him to select a specific cause to permanently support (children and young adults), while giving Akron Community Foundation's board additional dollars to award during its quarterly grant cycles. "I don't do anything with the funds anymore. I figure that's the position of John (Petures) and his organization. Being 91 years old, you get up from a lot of things," Ed said, adding that he trusts the board to choose grants that will make the greatest community impact.

Turning Family Tragedy into Legacy

Sadly, Ed's wife is not the only family member he has lost to cancer. His mother died when he was only 12, and cancer took the life of his first grandchild, Jennifer, this past November.

But Ed's spirit of giving back was instilled in Jennifer at an early age, and she found meaning in her diagnosis by using it to change the lives of other cancer patients.

In 2015, my wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. From the onset, she had this very terrible diagnosis," said Jennifer's husband, Christopher. "Some people who get that diagnosis, they shut down from the outside world. It's a very difficult thing. She did the opposite. She really focused on how she could help other people that have the disease and how she could make sure that money is getting to life-saving research."

Christopher knew he wanted to carry on Jennifer's legacy of cancer-focused philanthropy, but he wasn't sure where to start. He considered creating a private foundation and approached Laurie, Jennifer's aunt, for advice.

"I said, 'Chris, you don't want to do this. You have too much on your plate. You need this to be as easy as you can,'" Laurie recalls. So, she suggested establishing a donor-advised fund at Akron Community Foundation.

"Finding out that Grumpy had his fund (at the community foundation), it just felt like there was no other place I would want to do that," says Christopher.

Christopher also appreciated that he could include his children and future generations of family members as advisors to the fund, which he named the Jennifer Hendryx Legacy Fund for Breast Cancer Research. He intends to involve his 11-year-old daughter Kendall and 6-year-old son Carson in making grants from the fund to support the causes their mom cared about so deeply.

Christopher also plans to start a second fund for his own charitable giving. Although he married into the Schrank family, giving back was important to the Hendryx family, too.

"I always saw the example of (my parents) not just doing their day-to-day jobs and their normal charity, but also giving their time to make projects come to life," he says. "That example really resonated (with me), and I feel like if I'm lucky enough to be in a position to help future generations, then having a vehicle to do it keeps the family name going and, at the same time, keeps the traditions of support going."

Starting a fund at Akron Community Foundation was a simple process, he says.

"I think it's been a really positive experience and extremely easy. (Akron Community Foundation) is a well-managed organization. They have the financial strength, they know what they're doing," he said. "So it just couples those things together. To me, it's a very secure place to put the future."

Home is Where Philanthropy Is

Two months after Laurie introduced Christopher to Akron Community Foundation, she and her husband finished the conversion of their private family foundation into a donor-advised fund of their own. And while Bill's career in the U.S. Army has taken the couple all over the world, they wanted their philan¬thropy to stay at home in Akron.

"With my dad's previous experience with Akron Community Foundation, even though we lived in Pennsylvania, it just made sense to bring it on back home," Laurie says. "My husband was all for that. He's a California boy, but he was all for bringing that back to Akron and going with an organization that the family has some history with and we're comfortable with."

"My husband and I have been very blessed," she adds. "We've had a great career, we've had a great life, and we're very fortunate in what we've achieved. This just seemed like the natural progression of things that we would give back to our community."

Looking forward, Laurie says they don't want to limit the scope of issues they plan to support with their fund.

"Military and veterans causes are very important to us for obvious reasons. Also, the American Red Cross, which ties into that," she says. "We're also very much appreciative of wildlife and … national parks. But we're open-minded. If another cause comes to our attention, we will certainly give it consideration."

Reflections on a Meaningful Life

Back at the farmhouse, memories of the people who shaped Ed Schrank's life surround him. A photo book on the dining room table reads, "Grumpy Turns 90!" and family pictures line the rustic window ledges. As he looks back on a life well-lived, these photos offer a clear perspective of what matters most: family.

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