Waring Prize Recipient Lillian Kuri Wants Students to Care

WESTERN RESERVE ACADEMY–– In the backroom of Ellsworth Dining Hall sits a table adorned with flowers, sandwiches and chocolate beignets. Sequestered away from students, the room’s light wooden paneling isolates Ms. Kuri’s stimulating conversation with Waring Prize Committee members regarding their time at Western Reserve Academy, current professions and philanthropy.

At Morning Meeting on Friday, April 22, Lillian Kuri ’88 was honored with the Waring Prize by a vote of the Waring Prize Committee, and she stood on the Chapel’s stage to discuss WRA’s impact on her career trajectory, as well as her role with the Cleveland Foundation.

As a former member of the WRA community, Ms. Kuri has created a positive impact on Cleveland and the surrounding areas. As current high schoolers, the student body should strive to follow in her footsteps and ask themselves: “How can I utilize WRA’s resources to similarly incite change in the world?”

The Waring Prize committee, comprised of 11 alumni and faculty, reviews nominations and looks “for people who have just gone out and done wonderful things. We also look at it as a way to encourage people who are perhaps younger, to become engaged in like work” according to committee member Erin Dickenson ’99.

Ms. Kuri is an exemplar recipient. As Vice President and Chief Operating Official of the Cleveland Foundation, Ms. Kuri is currently focusing on two main projects. 

First is the Arts Mastery program. Arts Mastery allows for “year round access to mastery arts programs” for Cleveland Public Schools. Through this program, “students are not only able to grow in skill, but also self confidence,” according to Ms. Kuri.

The second project involves a new Cleveland Foundation headquarters. The new location will be an “anchor institution” that will unite University Circle, downtown Cleveland and the surrounding community through a variety of free services, including a 24/7 library. 

She accredits much of her professional success to her time at WRA. She is especially grateful for the faculty: “Coming here wasn’t just about what I learned in the classroom. It was the relationships I learned to hold with adults.” Through the peer level way in which she engaged with adults, Ms. Kuri entered the workforce as a more efficient and confident communicator. She thanks the faculty for “treating students like young leaders.”

Ms. Kuri left the student body with a few words of advice. She wants students to find a career path that connects their interests. However, she hopes they remain “open and nimble” as “life is not a straight line to your goal, but a series of experiences to layer on each other.” As a special note to seniors about to attend college, Ms. Kuri notes that “where you start is not as important as what you do.”

Peter McGinnes ’24 finds comfort in her speech: “The way she wasn’t sure of her future initially shows that life can truly change.”

Ms. Kuri inspires each and every one of her audience members to make the most of their circumstances, pursue their passions and care about the community.

Annie Cui ’22

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