The Akron community lost a strong, compassionate leader when Ann Amer Brennan died on July 25, 2023. If you knew Ann, you probably considered her a friend and perhaps even a mentor. She was an open and curious listener who imparted useful wisdom and modeled courageous leadership. Ann's willingness to tell you exactly what she thought was one of her greatest charms; you always knew where you stood with her. Although aways gracious and kind, Ann was never one to beat around the bush.
Ann was born May 19, 1933, to Frances Gibbons Amer and Bernard John Amer. She was the younger of two Amer daughters, joining her sister Jane. The family lived on Clemmer Avenue, a block from Our Lady of the Elms, where she and Jane went to school.
Ann started kindergarten in 1938 - the first Elms' kindergarten class - and graduated from high school in 1951. She attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a degree in political science in 1955. She returned to Akron and attended the university to obtain her teaching credentials, then taught at Thornton Junior High School for a year.
Her teaching career ended when she married David Brennan in 1957. Over the next seven years, Ann and Dave had five children, the youngest of whom died at birth. Ann was a full-time mom and homemaker, which did not come easily to her. She longed to do more in the world and for her community. Over time, volunteer work and philanthropy became her profession.
Ann was active in numerous community organizations over the course of her life. She started volunteering for the Junior League in the 1960s, serving as president from 1974-1976. Ann credited the Junior League with developing her leadership skills while getting her out of the house and away from her children for a few hours each week. By 1990, she was the first woman to chair the Akron Community Foundation. Over the next 20 years she served on the boards of the Weathervane Theatre, Akron Symphony Orchestra, Ohio Ballet, Blossom Music Center, and more. She chaired the Akron Civic Theatre board, the Summa Board of Directors, the Summa Foundation Board of Directors, and the University of Akron Board of Trustees.
Had Ann been born at a different time, she likely would have gone to law school immediately after college. Instead, she started law school in 1979 at 46 years of age, graduating in 1982. She worked for a few years at Amer, Cunningham & Brennan, eventually deciding that being a volunteer and philanthropist better suited her.
Philanthropy became Ann's primary passion and avocation. In 1991, she and Mary Ann Jackson founded the Akron Area Arts Alliance, devoted to advocacy and the arts. With David, Ann invested in numerous Akron organizations - from Inventure Place to the Open M Project to the Akron Civic Theatre to Summa Health System - often in cutting-edge projects designed to address important needs. Her final legacy was the establishment with David of the Akron-based Brennan Family Foundation.
Ann received several notable awards for her philanthropy and commitment to the arts. In 2000 she received the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award, followed by the 2003 Arts Alive! Award and the Northern Ohio Live's Rainmaker Award. In 2005 she received one of the Governor's Awards for the Arts, and in 2006 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2012, she received the Sir Thomas More Award from the Akron Bar Association in recognition of her personal integrity, community service, and professional excellence.
Ann and David's gifts led to the construction of the Ann & David Brennan Critical Care Center at Summa, the David & Ann Amer Brennan Courtroom at the University of Akron Law School, and the Sr. Elizabeth Ann Schaefer, O.P., Performing Arts and Athletic Center at the Elms.
In recent years, Ann was less active on community boards but continued her philanthropic support of local non-profit organizations. People sought Ann out for her ideas regarding creative ways to fund and solve organizational problems and achieve organizational missions. Ann's ability to listen closely, distinguish wishful thinking from logical reasoning, and compassionately articulate the best path forward made her a valuable business leader, an empathetic friend, and a wise mentor.
Ann was an avid reader until the end of her life, thanks to the zooming capabilities of iPads and Kindles. She enjoyed watching TV every night, preferring mysteries and comedies. She loved weekly bridge with her friends, who were her comrades and her confidantes. Her favorite physical exercise was Pilates, which she did twice a week until just shy of her 90th birthday.
Although raising small children was perhaps not the high point of her life, she loved spending time with her children as they grew older and enjoyed knowing each of her grandchildren as they became adults. Her home was the gathering place for our family. Everyone was welcome.
Until the day she died, Ann was witty, curious, and generous. We are deeply fortunate to have been raised and loved by her. We will strive to emulate her commitment to community and her pragmatic compassion for other humans. She inspires us and serves as our guiding light. Rest in peace, Mom.
Ann was preceded in death by her husband, David, her infant son, Billy, her sister, Jane Wolf, and her parents, Bernie and Frances. She is survived by her children Beth (Missoula, MT); Jay (Julie) (Greensboro, NC); Kathleen (Claude Hendon) (Tallahassee, FL); and Nancy (Akron). She is also survived by her grandchildren Brigit Rossbach (Seattle); Dylan Rossbach (Seattle); Rosalie Hendon (Fernando Utreras) (Columbus); David Hendon (Ranna Zhou) (Oakland, CA); Michael Hendon (Ellie Burgess) (Palo Alto, CA); Daniel Hendon (Los Angeles); Ann Brennan (Anna Dolezal) (Chicago); Maggie Brennan (Chicago); Claire Brennan Leslie (Colin) (Atlanta); and Hannah Brennan (Atlanta).
Mass of the Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 8, at St. Sebastian's Church, followed by private burial. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Open M, Summa Health System Foundation, Our Lady of the Elms, or the charity of your choice.