Celebrating the legacy of Malvin E. Bank, outside general counsel to the Cleveland Foundation from 1967-2003 and a national leader in the field of philanthropy

The Cleveland Foundation mourns the loss and celebrates the tremendous legacy of Malvin E. Bank, who served as outside general counsel to the foundation from 1967-2003. Mal passed away in April, and his impact on the Greater Cleveland community and the national field of philanthropy is difficult to overstate.

Mal was an expert on tax-exempt organizations for Thompson Hine, where his career spanned more than 50 years. In 2011, the firm’s centennial year, it established the Malvin E. Bank Award for Exemplary Client Service to recognize lawyers who demonstrate the highest levels of service to their clients.

Mal’s commitment to his clients was exemplified in his role as a trusted advisor to the Cleveland Foundation for 36 years. While representing the foundation, Mal was instrumental in a number of projects that shaped the future of the foundation and the field of philanthropy, including:

  • The creation and approval by the IRS of the first supporting organization in the country – the Sherwick Fund – in 1973;
  • The Cleveland Foundation’s first program-related investment (PRI) – the first PRI made by a U.S. community foundation – to save the theaters in Playhouse Square in 1982; and  
  • The development of Lexington Village in the early 1980s – at the time, it was the first market-rate rental housing built in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood in 50 years.

These projects and others laid the groundwork for the growth of the Cleveland Foundation’s social impact investing program, which today is one of the largest among U.S. community foundations, as well as its approach to neighborhood development over the past 40 years. Mal also supported the foundation’s work with donors to create charitable remainder trusts and serve as a sponsoring organization for donor-advised funds. He provided counsel on best practices and policies around scholarship funds and donor-advised funds, helping many Cleveland Foundation donors carry out their philanthropic visions and goals.

“Mal Bank’s vision and leadership continue to influence the Cleveland Foundation and the Greater Cleveland community today,” said Cleveland Foundation President & CEO Ronn Richard. “In many ways, the foundation’s incredible success in fundraising and providing a wide array of services to donors over the last decade built upon Mal Bank’s pioneering work.”

In addition to his role with the Cleveland Foundation, Mal served as a director for more than 50 nonprofit organizations and was a trustee for more than 30 charitable and educational institutions over the course of his career. He served as a representative for the Council on Foundations (COF), negotiating with the U.S. Treasury Department and Congress about proposed rules and regulations related to charities in the 1970s. In the 1990s, his amicus brief for COF served as the definitive history of the community foundation movement.

Even greater than Mal’s prodigious professional accomplishments is his personal legacy. He was a loving and devoted husband to Lea Bank for 64 years, with whom he raised four sons. Lea and Mal were impactful philanthropists in Greater Cleveland, generously giving to dozens of charitable organizations as well as educational and medical institutions. To honor his legacy, Mal’s family has established the Mal and Lea Bank Charitable Fund at the Cleveland Foundation. You can learn more about Mal Bank’s work with the Cleveland Foundation here, and make a gift to the Mal and Lea Bank Charitable Fund here.