February 17, 2015
Each year since 2001, the Corporate Social Responsibility course at West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics has participated in a valuable — and many times tough — exercise. It is called the Corporate Citizenship Project and, to date, has provided more than $250,000 to local, nonprofit organizations.
The project was the brainchild of 1955 B&E alumnus Robert “Bob” Reitman, a native of Fairmont, and an icon in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has lived for the past six decades. Reitman initially funded the CSR project, to the tune of $100,000, to help teach students how to think like corporate philanthropists. The idea came from his association with two of the many programs in which he is deeply involved in Cleveland.
“I had a great fondness, great memories of my experiences in Morgantown and was inclined to do something,” said Reitman. “It had struck me so often, in talking to people in the business world about fundraising, that there wasn’t a real appreciation for the opportunity that business — that industry — has to make upon a community.”
Thanks to funding provided by Reitman, B&E donors and the College, the class has $20,000 to hand out to local, nonprofit organizations each year, and must carefully weigh multiple funding requests. Local organizations may submit applications for grants through March 9, and the class will announce the recipients of the money on April 23. Through the course, students are able to recognize the importance of business supporting community.
Complete guidelines for grant applications may be obtained by e-mailing
Emily Myers, a junior management major from Morgantown who is active in the class, said learning how to think like a philanthropist presents a new challenge almost daily.
“The Corporate Citizenship Project has distributed more than a quarter of a million dollars since it began,” said Myers. “Our mission is to select applications and provide funding for projects that will have a long-lasting impact, while providing quality service to the community.”
The class solicits proposals for projects that would benefit Monongalia County and develops criteria for judging them, including each program’s track record and the potential impact of the grant.
Myers said one of the best aspects of the class will be getting to meet Reitman. Each student also completes a minimum of 30 community service hours.
In the coming weeks, Myers and her class will make the annual trip to Cleveland – home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an international attraction Reitman was instrumental in getting – to meet him, as well as hear from community philanthropists and fundraisers.
In past years, students have heard from such individuals as Christopher M. Connor, chairman and CEO of the Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Paint and Coating Manufacturing Co. and Bill Kitson, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland.
“Mr. Reitman has been the very foundation of this program,” said Joyce Heames, chair and associate professor of Management and Industrial Relations. “He continues to be very generous through this project, and it would be impossible to try to explain the value students in this course have gained over the years. He really believes that there is a corporate responsibility in knowing how to sensibly support your community, and that’s what our students are learning.”
For more information on the Corporate Social Responsibility project, contact Haley Chenoweth at BECSRClass@mail.wvu.edu.