About the Foundation

Mission and Goals

The mission of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation is twofold:

(1) to foster the development of individual young people to the maximum possible extent in Ohio’s secular primary and secondary schools, and

(2) to provide a means for greater accomplishment on the part of Ohio’s teachers by encouraging creativity in teaching and bringing greater recognition to the teaching profession.



We have specified four goals for our activities:

  • Support pre-K through 12th grade students in secular schools throughout Ohio with preference given to students and districts most in need
  • Engage schools and districts in partnerships with institutions of higher learning, affiliated organizations, and the Ohio Department of Education to provide services that align with and reinforce what is being taught in the schools
  • Focus on Excellent Teaching and Deep Learning

(Chart Explaining Characteristics of Excellent Teaching)

(Chart Explaining Characteristics of Deep Learning)

  • Focus on measuring outcomes and disseminating successes

Types of Projects We Support

We are eager to explore new frontiers and promote more effective teaching in Ohio’s secular schools by supporting a wide variety of projects for students and teachers from pre-K through high school.

We are most interested in funding the programmatic aspects of projects, rather than capital needs, such as technology, equipment, furniture, or books. We give greater consideration to grant requests that show minimal expenditures for capital needs.

Technology Requests

(Guidance Pertaining to MHJF Funding for Technology, Equipment, and Material Requests)

What We Do Not Support

We do not make grants for capital improvements, indirect costs, overhead, personal travel to workshops or conferences, endowment campaigns, general school supplies, school bus transportation, incentives, refreshments, or graduate study.

Our History

Our Founders

Together, Martha Holden Jennings and her nephew, Arthur S. Holden founded the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation in 1959. Their intent was to recognize and support Ohio’s public school teachers and students, a population they believed had been overlooked in philanthropic circles in favor of higher education.

Martha Holden Jennings

The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation was founded in 1959 by Mrs. Andrew R. Jennings, a Cleveland native with a deep interest in improving elementary and secondary public school education in Ohio. She envisioned the Foundation as a means to provide greater accomplishment on the part of our youth and their teachers. She hoped this would also bring greater recognition to the teaching profession. Mrs. Jennings lived for many years in Europe, where her husband as manager of foreign operations for International Business Machines Corporation. She returned to Cleveland in 1930 and lived at Wade Park Manor until her death in 1962.

Arthur S. Holden

“Did we do a little good today?”

That question was often asked by Arthur Holden after listening to any report of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation’s activities. Those fortunate to have had these conversations with him were often touched by the simplicity of his query, knowing well the profound impact his generosity was having on thousands of lives in classrooms throughout Ohio.

In every aspect, Mr. Holden’s life was marked by a deep love for his work, his family, his faith, and his philanthropy. He was a man of vision, a man of wisdom, a man of great generosity and kindness. Humble and good-hearted, he believed in hard work and never sought personal recognition.

For almost half a century, Mr. Holden’s genuine concern for the well-being of Ohio’s children guided the Foundation in fulfilling its mission. As we move forward, we will continue to be inspired by his seemingly simple desire to “do a little good” for the teachers and students of Ohio.

The Story Behind the Foundation

A Family “Start-Up”

The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation bears the name of the woman who created the Foundation in her will, but the Foundation actually emerged from a relationship forged across branches of the Holden family tree that was rooted in the family’s long-standing commitment to community. Martha Holden Jennings and her nephew Arthur Holden, Jr., became friends when Martha returned to Cleveland after many years away. Late in Martha’s life, Arthur worked with her to shape the decisions that led to the Foundation that has benefited education in Ohio for over fifty years since her death. The Foundation is truly the legacy of both these far-sighted individuals.

Martha Florence Holden was born in 1873 in Cleveland and grew up at East 79th and Euclid Avenue. She married Andrew R. Jennings, another native Clevelander in 1897. The young couple began a life that was most unusual for the time: they became early participants in what we now call the “global economy.” Andrew Jennings joined Thomas Watson in a business venture that became I.B.M., one of the great American companies. While Watson stayed in the United States, Andrew Jennings went to Europe to develop the business there. He and Martha remained in Europe until June of 1930 when Andrew retired and they returned to Cleveland to live at Wade Park Manor in University Circle.

On a return visit to Europe just a year later, Andrew suddenly took ill and died in a London hospital. Only fifty-seven-years-old, Martha had no children and had not lived in the United States for more than a quarter century. She returned to Cleveland and reconnected with family and old friends. Andrew left his wife $750,000, a large sum for the time.

Over the coming years, Martha developed a strong relationship with her cousin, Arthur Holden, Sr., as well as his son Arthur, Jr. and his young family. Martha became a regular part of picnics, Sunday dinners, and holiday gatherings. Arthur welcomed the opportunity to learn from Martha and to serve as her confidante and support. Two branches of the Holden family had joined in a close, respectful relationship.

Eventually, Arthur introduced Martha to Harvey Hobson, an attorney who helped her shepherd her inheritance and make decisions about her finances.

Meanwhile, Arthur Holden, Jr., a Case Institute of Technology trained engineer, was creating his own place as a businessman and community leader. Two years after graduation, Arthur wanted to work in heavy manufacturing and he called a friend, George Milbourn whose father owned Coe Manufacturing, a company whose roots went back to 1852. Mr. Milbourn challenged Arthur to show “what you are really worth,” and sixty years later, Arthur still went to his office at Coe every day. Just as important as his business career, however, was Arthur’s devotion to the greater Cleveland community. He played major leadership roles at Lakeland Community College, Lake Erie College, the Cleveland Clinic, the YMCA, Kiwanis and many other institutions.

As Arthur’s support for Martha grew, they discussed the legacy she hoped to create. She made generous gifts to the Cleveland Clinic, University Circle, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Case and others. But she still had to determine what her major gift would be. She was clear about her interest in fostering the best in young people through education, but she hadn’t determined how best to do that. Then, in 1958, Arthur happened to read an article about President Eisenhower’s White House Conference on Education.

The work of this conference resonated with Arthur and it occurred to him that philanthropy focused primarily on higher education, but little was done to encourage primary and secondary teachers in our nation’s public schools. He later called this idea a “happy thought” that he took to Martha to sell her on a new idea for that legacy gift. He later said, “She was a very intelligent woman, very alert and opinionated. You didn’t start out to tell her what to do, you sort of listened to what her thoughts were and then tried to encourage her thinking in what seemed to be a reasonable way to go.”

Arthur succeeded and the two branches of the Holden family tree, through two dedicated community leaders, joined together to create a lasting legacy that became the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation in 1959. Martha died after a short illness in August of 1962.

The Foundation was started with $11 million. Since its beginning, through careful stewardship of the assets, the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation has made grants of $150,000,000 and continues to provide millions of dollars each year to support K-12 Education throughout Ohio. Arthur Holden died in 2007, having spent almost 50 years guiding the Foundation in its important mission.

Board of Directors, Distribution Committee, Educational Consultants

Board of Directors

Mr. George B. Milbourn, Chairman/President
Dr. Jawanza Karriem Lightfoot Colvin
Mr. John M. Gherlein
Mrs. Debra H. Guren
Mrs. Anne C. Juster
Mrs. Mary Lynn Laughlin
Mr. Jon H. Outcalt
Mr. Peter E. Raskind

Distribution Committee

Mr. John H. Wilharm, Jr., Chairman
Dr. Yvonne L. Allen
Mr. Lorenzo T. Carlisle
Mr. Leigh H. Carter
Dr. James V. Connell
Mrs. Jane M. Neubauer
Mrs. Doreen E. Osmun
Mr. Michael R. Sheppard
Dr. Jack Thompson

Educational Consultants

Mrs. Margaret S. Connell
Ms. Mary Flanagan
Dr. Adrienne C. James
Mrs. Sharon Arko Jones
Dr. Thomas J. Lasley
Mr. Francis S. Martines
Dr. Linda C. Nusbaum