Throughout the 19th Century the residents of Cleveland felt the city needed an institute of higher education to achieve the status of the great cities of the east, like Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia or Baltimore. With few exceptions, all early attempts failed due to inadequate funding. William Case, the older brother of Leonard Case, Jr., founded Cleveland University but a lack of support and the selection of questionable leadership doomed the effort almost from the start.
Leonard, Jr., on the other hand, had a different vision for a new school in response to two questions: how can science better serve humanity, and what is best for the advancement of the residents of Cleveland. Sharing his thoughts with a small group which included Henry G. Abbey, John Stockwell and Judge Rufus Ranney, Leonard, Jr. established a Trust Deed committing approximately half the value of his estate for the founding of Case School of Applied Science. The course offerings were delineated in the Trust Deed and included: mathematics, physics, mechanical and civil engineering, economic geology, mining and metallurgy, natural history, drawing and modern languages, as well as “other kindred branches of learning” as they would be considered and decided upon by the Case Trustees.
The Trust Deed was filed the day after Leonard, Jr. passed away and a Corporate Board of fifteen members received Incorporation approval from the State of Ohio on April 8, 1880. Members of the Corporate Board visited eastern campuses and the advice of consultants was sought. The Case School of Applied Science was opened on September 15, 1881, operating from the Case Family Homestead on Rockwell Avenue.
For the first six years, the Case School operated under the direction of the Trustees, experimenting with course and faculty selections to find their best offerings. They appointed Cady Staley as the first President in 1886. Staley established a set of academic standards and curriculum selections. He then supervised the construction of the University Circle campus to support these decisions. He was followed in 1902 by Charles S. Howe who expanded and raised all the standards, adopting a more formal and professional style for the Case School. Shortly after William E. Wickenden’s appointment in 1929 as the third President, America entered the Great Depression, followed by World War II. He guided the Case School through these dark days, minimizing financial loses, while holding tuition fixed and offering new academic programs to expand the enrollment. He personally led the Case School, modifying academic calendars and research priorities to participate in the War effort. His last act as President was to lead the name change from the Case School of Applied Science to Case Institute of Technology.