Press Room



Raising the Roof Even Higher

Nov. 08, 2007

By Marci Janas ’91

Editor’s Note - Effective April 22, 2010: Since this article originally appeared, the Litoff Building has been renamed. Oberlin's new home for jazz studies, music history, and music theory is now the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building.

The building fund for the Phyllis Litoff Building, “the roof that jazz is raising,” has been enhanced by two $4 million gifts. Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov announced in early November that of three separate, $4 million gifts that were pledged to the College, two of them — $8 million — are earmarked for construction of Oberlin’s new home for jazz studies.

“Oberlin is a place where … the frontiers of music are expanded,” says President Krislov. “These gifts celebrate the leadership, creativity, and innovative spirit found throughout Oberlin College.”

The two gifts pledged to Oberlin in support of the Phyllis Litoff Building help to advance the Conservatory’s commitment to environmental sustainability; the Litoff Building is intended to be the first music facility in the world to attain a gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. The LEED Green Building Rating SystemTM is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Oberlin graduate Clyde McGregor ’74 of Chicago, Illinois, a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, has pledged $4 million to the Litoff Building. His gift is being made in honor of his mother, Lilly Marie Smith ’43.

Oberlin graduate Joseph Clonick ’57, also of Chicago, Illinois, who made an earlier gift of $1 million dollars to support construction of the Litoff Building, has pledged an additional $4 million. His contributions will support a recording studio and performance space for the project.

Both $4 million gifts will augment the commitment by Cleveland businessman Stewart Kohl ’77 and his wife, Donna, who launched the Litoff building project in 2005 with a lead gift of $5 million—the largest private gift in support of jazz education at a U.S. college.

“I am extremely grateful to Clyde McGregor and Joe Clonick for their extraordinary generosity and support for the Phyllis Litoff Building and Oberlin,” says Dean of the Conservatory David H. Stull. “Their leadership in ensuring the future excellence of the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences is remarkable, and we are all honored by these exceptional commitments from Mr. McGregor and Mr. Clonick.”

The Phyllis Litoff Building, which will be designed by the architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky, will house the Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s jazz studies department and its academic programs in music history and music theory. In addition to the gold LEED rating to which the building aspires, it will include a world-class recording studio and the largest privately held jazz recording collection in the U.S.; the latter is a gift from James and Susan Neumann of Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Neumann is a 1958 graduate of Oberlin College.

Oberlin College also received a record donation from the Kulas Foundation, in September 2006, in support of the building project, and one anonymous donor has pledged $1 million. Friends of the project have made several other substantial gifts. The total project cost for the building, including specialized equipment for the recording studio, a number of new Steinway pianos, and an endowment, is projected at $22 million. Oberlin plans to have the Litoff Building open for the 2009-10 school year.


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