Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, Facilitators and Supporters of Arts Education


Martha Holden Jennings had a lifelong interest in aiding the improvement of elementary and secondary public school education in Ohio. In 1958, she started Martha Holden Jennings Foundation with an initial bequest of $5.5 million from the estate of her late husband, Andrew D. Jennings, an executive with International Business Machines Corporation, who had died in 1931.

Jennings’s original vision for the foundation entailed enhancing and promoting higher achievement on the part of young students and their teachers. Ultimately, she hoped that this support would bring about greater recognition of the teaching profession at the elementary and secondary levels.

Jennings died in 1962. Today the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation provides grants to nonprofit institutions to improve the quality of teaching. It also funds secular primary and secondary education projects, teacher training, curriculum development, school evaluation studies and educational TV programs and provides support for the professional development of administrators and new and veteran educators. 

“When the Special Citations were established in 1963, one of the categories of art supporters the Cleveland Arts Prize hoped to honor was that of outstanding teachers,” explained Mary Louise Hahn, Arts Prize chairperson from 1990-2000. “In 1992, it was decided that the Jennings Foundation, as an organization, had done so much to promote fine arts teaching, it should be celebrated, as well.”

Over the years, the foundation has disbursed millions of dollars of grants, typically ranging in size from one thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The foundation does not make grants for multiple-year projects; rather, requests must be for one year only. However, depending on the status of the project, an organization may resubmit a proposal for continued funding.

The long list of foundation beneficiaries has included area colleges and universities, as well as the Beck Center for the Arts, the Chautauqua Institution, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the Cleveland Folk Arts Association, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Society for the Blind and University Circle, Incorporated.

By elevating the capabilities of educators at all levels, the foundation continues to enforce and enliven Martha Holden Jennings’s mandate to enhance the profession of teaching and significantly improve education for Ohio students

—Christopher Johnston


Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •