Sally Wertheim has been involved in both Cleveland’s Jewish and general communities for many years.
“Cause I’m old,” Wertheim said with a laugh.
Wertheim began volunteering at an early age, but noted it was rarely with her family.
“My family was never into volunteering,” she said. “But it was something I believed people should do.”
As a high school student, Wertheim ran a group called “Sally’s Squirts,” which did volunteer work through the Jewish Community Center.
“Which in those years was Arlington House,” Wertheim said. “‘Cause I lived in the Glenville neighborhood.”
Wertheim has always been able to make a contribution, she said, explaining she has long been active on a number of boards including the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Mandel Foundation and Milestones Autism Resources.
Other boards Wertheim has served on include Facing History, the Begun Foundation, the Miller Good Foundation, the Gerson Foundation and the Cleveland Commission on Poverty of the Cleveland Foundation.
Noting she was the first female president of the Federation’s board, Wertheim said, “It was something I thought was important, because I was always willing to promote women to do things and they never let women.”
Of the women she has mentored, Wertheim said one key piece of advice she has given is that “they’re very competent.”
“And I’m not telling them they’re competent because they’re women,” she added. “It’s because they’re people.”
Noting she helped Milestones’ female founder set up the organization’s board, Wertheim said, “That’s a lot of what I’ve done for people.”
Wertheim said she encouraged her children to give back to the community early on.
“We used to do a lot of projects in the community,” she said. “For the Jewish holidays, we would collect stuff and give it away.”
During that time, she was working full time as a professor at John Carroll University in University Heights.
“My fields is the foundations, the history and philosophy of education,” Wertheim said. “I taught teachers. I thought it was a privilege.”
Noting John Carroll University was an all male college for many years, Wertheim said, when they became coed, “I was one of the first women they hired.”
She became the coordinator of teacher education and chair of the department of education at John Carroll University in 1976. Ten years later, Wertheim was appointed the first woman dean of the graduate school and director of faculty research and grants.
She later held roles such as the director of planning and assessment, the interim dean of the college of arts and sciences and also the graduate school.
Wertheim now serves as dean emeritus and professor emeritus at the university, a role she has held since 2008.
According to Wertheim, her husband, Stanley, whom she married at age 18, always motivated her to be active in the community and pursue new opportunities.
“He’s always encouraged me,” she said. “Who would have done half these things?”
Wertheim said he would say, ‘You can do it, Sally. Do it.”
“He’s my big promoter,” she said. “I don’t need a promoter, but he’s really a good guy.”
Wertheim believes her Jewish teachings contributed to her desire to give back.
“It’s the belief system,” she said, matter-of-factly. “You know, we take care of each other.”