By Lili Martinez
Trustee emeritus, generous donor to the College and patron of the arts James P. Storer ’49 H’85 died on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the age of 85. Over his lifetime, Storer contributed to the development of Kenyon’s history department through an endowed professorship and lecture series in Asian history and a history merit scholarship. The James P. Storer music building, which bears his name, and the Bolton Theater were both made possible by grants from Storer. He was a Kenyon trustee from 1979 to 1991, and he chaired the 1985-89 “Campaign for Kenyon,” which encouraged donations to build the College’s endowment.
In a statement to the Office of Public Affairs, President S. Georgia Nugent said, “Jim Storer was a truly dedicated son of Kenyon, who was generous to the College in every way throughout his life. Though blinded at a young age, Jim Storer was in many ways a man of great vision. His passing is a sad loss to Kenyon.”
Storer grew up in Detroit, Mich. An accident with a discarded tear gas gun took Storer’s vision when he was six years old. During his time at Kenyon – Storer transferred after a year at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania – he used braille, tape recorders and records to complete his work. He was a history major and a member of Delta Phi and the Middle Kenyon Association.
A lifelong supporter of the arts and broadcasting, Storer entered the family business, Storer Broadcasting, after spending a year at Harvard Law School. He worked in executive capacities in Miami, Fla.; New York City; Philadelphia, Penn. and Cleveland, Ohio, eventually rising to director of the company. He retired in 1981.
Storer’s first major gift to the College in 1978 helped build the Bolton Theater, which opened in December of that year with an inaugural show directed by Paul Newman ’49 H’61 and featuring Allison Janney ’82. He continued to support the performing arts at Kenyon by serving as a trustee of the Kenyon Festival Theater, a professional summer theater present on campus during the 1980s, and he donated broadcasting equipment to WKCO, the College radio station.
“[Storer] was enormously loyal to Kenyon and deeply interested in whatever was going on,” said Philip Jordan, Jr., former Kenyon president, in a statement to the Office of Public Affairs. “Whenever there was a need that captured his imagination, he was generous in supporting it.”
Storer was a leader in all areas of his life, holding leadership positions at the Cleveland Museum for Natural History, the Cleveland Orchestra and the American Foundation for the Blind. He also chaired the Grand River Partners, an organization dedicated to preserving land in the Grand River Watershed in northeastern Ohio. His house, Walden II, is located on a 188-acre nature preserve in the area.
“Jim was one of the first alumni I met when I arrived here in the early ’70s,” said Douglas L. Givens, former vice president for development at the College, in a statement to Public Affair. Givens worked closely with Storer for 20 years. “What struck me, and what continued to strike me for more than 40 years, was his abiding love of this place. There may have been a few people who equaled that love; nobody ever surpassed it. Jim didn’t see Kenyon as a stop on the road to somewhere else. This was his destination.”