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Notre Dame College Closure Faces Legal Challenge as Community Fights to Save Historic Institution

SOUTH EUCLID - Notre Dame College, a renowned South Euclid educational institution since 1922, officially closed its doors following the end of this last semester due to several factors. Declining enrollment, a shrinking pool of traditional-aged students, as well as rising costs and significant debt was cited as the main reasons for the closure, according to the College. Currently, the entire property is listed for sale (or potential lease) online with Hanna Commercial Real Estate of Cleveland. Today, however, the institution finds itself in the spotlight as a legal challenge unfolds in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The lawsuit, spearheaded by faculty member Peter Corrigan, head baseball coach Len Barker, and South Euclid Council member Justin Tisdale, seeks to prevent the college’s impending closure.


The complaint, filed against Terri Bradford Eason, the chair of the college's Board of Trustees, alleges negligence and a failure to adequately explore alternatives to save the institution, which officially ceased operations this May. This legal action highlights the significant impact the closure is expected to have on the local community, potentially stripping South Euclid of substantial economic activity and a major employment tax base.


"Plaintiff Tisdale, as a representative of both the alumni base and the local community, exemplifies the deep roots and broad impact Notre Dame College holds in South Euclid, home to 21,000 residents," states the lawsuit. Tisdale and other council members have expressed frustration over the lack of a post-shutdown operational plan from the college's board, pointing to a broader issue of transparency and engagement with stakeholders.


Central to the plaintiffs' arguments is the accusation that Eason failed to provide written authorization for a group of benefactors to negotiate a debt resolution with Bank of America concerning a substantial $20 million loan. Despite verbal assurances, the lack of formal approval has stalled potential financial remedies that could save the college, according to court documents.


The lawsuit details efforts by an "informal benefactor group" that emerged as the closure became imminent. This group quickly mobilized to raise funds and negotiate a discounted debt settlement to maintain the college’s operations. "These efforts, represented by substantial informal commitments, while impressive, are currently insufficient to eliminate the totality of debt without a fair and reasonable discount," the complaint elaborates.


Furthermore, the filing criticizes the college's management for giving away operating assets, such as computers, without proper authorization, potentially contravening Ohio's regulations on handling the assets of a nonprofit institution. The plaintiffs are also concerned about the potential invasion of restricted endowments, with no available information to confirm their status.


Amid these legal proceedings, there are voices like South Euclid Councilwoman Sara Continenza, who, while acknowledging the college’s closure as a part of the cycles impacting private educational institutions, chooses to look forward. Speaking to Cleveland 13 News, Continenza expressed optimism about repurposing the campus, "There's much potential too, I mean there's a need for housing, affordable housing, there's a need for senior housing...there's rec (recreational) facilities that we need, like there's a lot of things that could be transformed into something very positive for the community and also generate revenue; so it’s just a matter of how they go about it."


As the case progresses, the plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction to halt any further actions towards closing the college, alongside expedited discovery to uncover more details about the decision-making process and financial management leading up to the closure announcement.


A copy of the legal complaint can be viewed and downloaded below.

CV-24-995727 PETER J. CORRIGAN vs. TERRI BRADFORD EASON
.pdf
Download PDF • 846KB

More updates will be made available as these events continue to unfold.



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