Although answering a call to serve his country following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted Cornelius “C.P.”Chima’s college education, he never forgot The University of Akron. And seven decades later, he and his wife, Cornelia, continue to demonstrate an extraordinary philanthropic commitment to their University.
The couple’s leadership, vision, and generosity were formally recognized during a special ceremony June 14, 2012, when UA President Luis Proenza presented each with the degree doctor of humane letters, one of academia’s most venerable and treasured traditions and the highest honor bestowed to any individual by The University of Akron.
Since 1963, in fact, the Chimas have provided substantial philanthropic support to The University of Akron, establishing The C.P. and Cornelia Chima Family Center to assist the College of Education and The C.P. and Neal S. Chima Department of Athletics Ticket Office to recognize their support of Zip Athletics, as well as providing numerous other gifts, primarily in support of scholarships.
“Giving to this University has always been a wonderful and rewarding experience,” remarked C.P. after accepting his degree. “My wife and I have always believed in supporting institutions that have a vision and a plan, and that certainly describes The University of Akron, and most especially Dr. Proenza, whose leadership continues to impress me.”
For the Chimas, who married in 1955 and raised three children – Lissa, Craig, and Derek ’85 – the University is among an extensive list of civic and nonprofit organizations that have benefited tremendously from their kindness and generosity.
Following three years of service with the U.S. Air Force, during which he earned 28 decorations (including a silver star and the Croix de Guerre with Palm, France’s highest honor), C.P. was honorably discharged as a Colonel and returned to Akron to manage the family business, Chima Travel and Insurance Companies. His went on to found five additional companies and ultimately established himself as a leading business and civic executive in the Greater Akron community.
Over the years, C.P. lent his expertise to a number of civic enterprises, including the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor’s Traffic Control Commission, and he served on the boards of the International Institute, the Summit County Board of Mental Retardation/Development Disabilities, the Summit County Sheltered Workshop Fund, and Akron General Medical Center.
Likewise, Cornelia has been a vibrant and outstanding contributor to the community. A Wayne State University graduate and lifelong advocate of the power of education, she taught in the Detroit and Akron public school systems, as well as at Kent State University, before becoming a valuable partner to her husband in the administration of the family business. Cornelia also served as a tireless volunteer with the Junior Women’s Civic Club, the Akron Women’s City Club, the Fairlawn Country Club, and the Women’s Auxiliary Board of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens; and she was a dedicated board member of the University of Akron’s Women’s Committee and Ardmore Inc., a local agency whose mission is to provide services and support for individuals with challenges, enhancing their quality of life and promoting community inclusion and acceptance.
Since its founding in 1870, The University of Akron has recognized numerous individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions, but the honorary degree, first conferred by UA in 1873, has been reserved for those distinguished personages who have made a significant and remarkable impact on the University and its students.
The Chimas now join an impressive list of doctor of humane letters honorees that includes nationally recognized names – such as Firestone, Seiberling, Bradley, Dove, and Knight – as well as those who have achieved regional prominence, including Polsky, Albrecht, Odom, and Pianalto.
“What they share in common,” said Proenza, referring to the Chimas and past recipients, “is a commitment to excellence and a desire to shape and improve the future. In doing so, they have benefited the greater good, and the University, our faculty and staff, and every student shall remain forever grateful.”