Notable People

Jo Hershey Selden, Philanthropist

Bratenahl Place
Jo Hershey Selden
Jo Hershey Selden

Jo Hershey Selden had a lifelong passion for philanthropic deeds in support of her community.  She founded The Hershey Foundation which provides Northeast Ohio children from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds with special opportunities for personal growth and development.  Her generosity to the Western Reserve Montessori School in Concord, Ohio, caused the School’s Board of Trustees in 1989 to rename the school Hershey Montessori School.  Her tireless work on behalf of the Bratenahl community, especially the Bratenahl Community Foundation, was recognized on June 13, 1990, when the foundation named the former kindergarten room at the Bratenahl Community Center as “The Selden Room.”

Josephine “Jo” Ethel Rosenberg was born in 1916 and graduated with honors from Cleveland Heights High School.  She married Alvin A. Hershey in December 1936.  They had four children.

Alvin Hershey was the president and board chairman of the Capital Insurance Co. of Ohio.  He built the insurance company from one salesman in 1964 to 150 by 1974.  He was chairman of the Life Underwriters Training Council, and taught courses in underwriting.  After raising her children, Jo entered the business world and worked with Alvin at Capital Insurance.  She was an officer and director when she retired.

Alvin A. Hershey
Alvin A. Hershey

Jo and Alvin moved to Bratenahl Place in the early 1970s.  They loved living on Lake Erie.  They bought a small boat named The Hershey Bar which they docked at the inlet adjoining Bratenahl Place.

Alvin died suddenly on April 3, 1974, at the age of 58.  After Alvin’s death, Jo continued her civic and cultural pursuits in support of women’s rights, volunteering at the Bellfaire/Jewish Children’s Bureau, and supporting the Cleveland Playhouse.

On July 7, 1977, Jo married George G. Selden, who also lived at Bratenahl Place.  Both Jo and George were active members of the Bratenahl Community Foundation.  She joined the foundation’s Board of Trustees in 1984 and ran the foundation’s membership committee for many years.

In 1986, Jo established The Hershey Foundation, through which she sought to honor her late husband, Alvin, through philanthropic deeds in support of her community.  Initially, Jo used the Hershey Foundation as a vehicle for distributing annual gifts.  She was able to support the arts and the area’s many cultural institutions.

Her interest in education was heightened by her grandchildren’s experiences in Montessori schools. She saw the benefits of Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy and directed considerable support to Montessori schools in northeast Ohio.  Jo made a grant to the Western Reserve Montessori School in Painesville that allowed the school to purchase land to build a new facility designed for children from birth to age 12.  This property, consisting of 11 acres, would become the Concord campus.  The school’s Board of Trustees recognized Jo’s contribution by renaming the school Hershey Montessori School. Today, the dedicated work of the Hershey Foundation continues under the direction of Jo and Alvin Hershey’s children and grandchildren.  In 1999, the Hershey Children’s Garden opened at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens through funding from The Hershey Foundation. As a lead donor, The Hershey Foundation supported Stonebrook Montessori, the first public Montessori charter school in Ohio.  Many other organizations have benefited from Jo’s philanthropic vision.

Jo Hershey Selden died of lung cancer at her home at Bratenahl Place on May 24, 1990.  She was memorialized by the Bratenahl Community Foundation with the following words:

“We who knew her will remember Jo’s spirit, her vivacious manner and intelligent questioning mind.  Her legacy to us is her positive, caring attitude; one that encouraged us to do the best we could; to live each day, as did she, with joy from simple things coupled with a dedication to improving the quality of life.”