UCI Remembers Jamie Ireland
Posted January 22, 2015 in Press Releases
James D. “Jamie” Ireland III came home to Cleveland to rebuild the city his ancestors built. A descendant of the Mather family of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue and the Village of Bratenahl, Jamie understood what giving back to ones community really meant. Returning to Cleveland and fully reinvesting in its future was Jamie Ireland’s passion and devotion for the last twenty years. After returning to the Cleveland from the east and west coasts, Jamie’s positive imprints began to appear in Cleveland right away. He was a venture capitalist who invested social capital into making things work in Cleveland. He was a business and civic entrepreneur like his grandparents before him that put their capital to work for the good of Cleveland.
At Northcoast Harbor, it was Jamie’s idea to tie the ship that carries his family name - the Steamship William G. Mather - to the Great Lakes Science Center as an interpretive experience on Lake Erie. One of Jamie’s happiest days in Cleveland spent aboard the ship joining the crew that transported The Mather from its former East 9th Street location to Dock 32 alongside the Science Center for the enjoyment of Clevelanders of all ages.
Five miles east of downtown Cleveland, Jamie helped transform the orchestra he loved. Serving as Board Chair for 6 years on the Musical Arts Association, the governing board of the Cleveland Orchestra, Jamie led the orchestra to new audiences, including a permanent residency program in Miami Florida, and helped create stronger local ties in communities throughout Cuyahoga County.
Jamie was a community visionary who worked tirelessly to connect the community to the arts. He was known downstate at the Ohio Statehouse as the man who regularly came to Columbus to deliver for his hometown. After working with the Ohio legislature to craft enabling legislation to put a tobacco excise tax for the arts on a local ballot, Jamie then worked locally to pass the first Cuyahoga County Arts and Cultural Levy which delivered more than $100 million dollars in financial support to individual artists and non-profit community arts organizations in Cuyahoga County over the next decade.
Envisioning better physical connections to the University Circle cultural district and neighborhood redevelopment throughout an area known as Cleveland’s “Forgotten Triangle”, Jamie also worked tirelessly on state funding support to develop the Opportunity Corridor. Ultimately the State of Ohio delivered more than $300 million in support for community connector.
Never one to seek credit for his work on these initiatives, Jamie cared only about the community yield and never about any personal gain. He was a thoughtful community leader and civic entrepreneur who simply wanted to get things done.
In 1957, Elizabeth Ring Mather, Jamie Ireland’s grandmother, advocated for the founding of University Circle Incorporated. UCI emerged as a unique placed based community service corporation that became the community glue between 40 non-profit educational, medical, arts and cultural institutions located in the one mile University Circle district. Upon his return to Cleveland in the 1990’s Jamie rolled up his sleeves to help lead a new vision for the Circle as a premier urban district. Completing the Shaping the Future Plan in 2000, Jamie then leveraged the organization to develop, serve and advocate for University Circle as Ohio’s premier destination to live, work, and experience.
Under the seven years that Jamie Chaired UCI, University Circle was one of Ohio’s fastest growing employment and residential districts. Jamie took great joy in seeing institutions grow across the Circle and he also took joy in watching the neighborhood begin to reach its potential.
As leader of the UCI Board, Jamie logged countless hours with the organization. The staff and board remember him for his wit, for his passion, and for his humility. He was self effacing and effective at the same time. Jamie may have been the smartest man in any room he was in, but he never lost sight of the art of self-deprecation and the science of collaboration. He was Cleveland’s consummate consensus builder who cared about the opinion of every Clevelander. He was always encouraging more discussion, sometimes with an invitation to the orchestra, a friending on Facebook, or at an impromptu encounter at a Wade Oval Wednesday concert. Jamie loved his hometown both for what it was and for what it was becoming. As we look now and see the positive direction Cleveland is headed, we can thank Jamie Ireland for helping set the city compass on course. Jamie Ireland boomeranged home before it became fashionable to do so. He’s a part of the reason it’s now happening more and more.
James D. Ireland III was an advocate, a visionary, and a creative civic entrepreneur who transformed Cleveland for the good. With reflection, many of us look back on the life of Jamie Ireland and realize he was a teacher. He was a teacher who taught us to work on work worth doing and to work together to get good things done. His lesson will live on in our daily community work together.
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