From an early age, Roe Green loved the stage, but she was never one for the spotlight. She was more comfortable behind the scenes helping others.

Today, she is in the spotlight as she helps others, but it’s more through her philanthropic endeavors. She has left her mark across Northeast Ohio, New York, Florida, Colorado and Canada, where thousands of arts students and aficionados have been the beneficiaries.

“My background is really in backstage work and the theater end,” said Green, who is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the arts world. The award is sponsored by ERChealth.

The list of organizations she has supported in the last few years appears endless.

She gave $6.5 million for the Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance at Kent State University in Kent, the largest donation the school’s college of arts has received. She bestowed the school $2.2 million to support the Roe Green Visiting Director Series and a $175,000 outright gift and a $2 million bequest to endow the series in perpetuity.

“Roe’s generosity is driven by her sincere passion for students,” KSU President Beverly J. Warren said. “Her support continues to have a profound impact on our students’ lives and futures by creating purposeful opportunities for students to grow their talents under the tutelage of renowned directors. We are all thankful for Roe’s generous and ongoing support to Kent State and our school of theatre and dance.”

Green, who is a resident of Jupiter, Fla., and has a residence in Lyndhurst, gave $10 million to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to support the next phase of renovations at the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. The performance space will be named the Roe Green Proscenium Theater. 

“Roe’s generous commitment will make an enormous difference for our students and faculty in the performing arts and for the people who come to see them,” CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder said. “The state-of-the-art Roe Green Theater will give actors, dancers and other artists a true opportunity to shine and we could not be more grateful to her for this support.”

Green established a $10 million endowment to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in support of its Campaign for Jewish Needs and she is the co-chair of the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection. The Roe Green Gallery in the Federation’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Building in Beachwood is named for her.

University Hospitals established the Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine in recognition of a $5 million gift.

Green was the first person to endow a chair in the arts at the University of Colorado and a visiting artist series. 

In Florida, she is involved with the Maltz Jupiter Theater in Jupiter, Palm Beach Dramaworks live theater in West Palm Beach and Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno.

She’s also involved with Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Porthouse Theatre in Cuyahoga Falls, Chautauqua Theater Company in New York, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada.

Perhaps her biggest enjoyment is engaging students.

“I try to give them experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise, by having the (visiting) artist or visiting directors series,” Green said.

“I do a lot of it for the kids. I always ask after a show, ‘Did you learn something from this?’ And I get things like, ‘It was awesome. It’s life-changing, life-altering.’ My gosh, you’re 18, how life-changing can it be? I do like to check in with the students because I am doing some of this stuff for them.”

Green, who turned 70 in October, credits her philanthropic nature to her late parents, U.S. District Judge Ben C. Green and Sylvia E. Green, a registered nurse. They were members of Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood. Her mother was Catholic and her father Jewish. They are considered a founding family of the temple, where she was confirmed. 

Green worked for a few years behind the scenes for The Singing Angels and the Cleveland Opera. When her father “left a little bit of money” when he died in 1983, she stopped working.

Green said she always considered herself philanthropic and started to increase her giving after her mother died in 2003, creating the Roe Green Foundation, of which she is CEO.

“It seemed like a good thing for me to do,” she said.

Her first donations were not in the arts, but to WomenSafe in Chardon for a new shelter. The second was to name the CWRU law library in her father’s memory. He was Western Reserve University School of Law’s first alumnus.

Green graduated from Beachwood High School in 1966 and is enshrined on the school’s wall of fame. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater from the University of Colorado in Denver in 1970 and earned a master’s degree in theater from Kent State University in 1980. 

Green found her love for theater when she was in elementary school.

“My mother used to tell me when I was in kindergarten I recited (and) memorized ‘The Three Bears,’ and did it for a school program,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in the arts. In high school, I was more involved in art, painting and sculpture. Then I did some backstage work in high school.”

She also credits Roy Berko, her fifth-grade math teacher who directed school plays, for getting her involved. In college, she took a theater class as an elective and the professor asked if someone would take notes during a rehearsal. 

“For some crazy reason, I raised my hand,” she recalled. “From then on, I was hooked.”

What’s next for Green?

“I like to keep my halo shining,” she said. “This is my philosophy of life and I’ve always used it: I have five oranges, I keep one, I save one and I give the other three away. And everything I give away, I get back tenfold.”

As sponsor of the Lifetime Achievement Award, ERC president Kelly Keefe said it’s “an honor for us to help recognize and celebrate Roe’s incredible philanthropy. Roe’s generosity is unprecedented – the millions she’s contributed to local arts, education and health care institutions has changed and will continue to change countless lives.”

– Bob Jacob

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