In Memoriam: Jean Kalberer (FSM ’55, LAW ’81)

Walter and Jean Kelberer pose for a picture in front of the black box theatre sign which they provided support and is named after them

When Case Western Reserve marked completion of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center in 2021, Jean Kalberer provided critical perspective.

“Everyone needs art,” said Kalberer who, with her husband, Walter, made the naming gift for the center’s black box theater. “Music and theater comfort us during the difficult times … and they are critical to helping people, especially young people, figure out how they relate to the world around them.”

During the course of their 68-year marriage, Kalberer and her husband consistently supported the arts, education and other meaningful causes across greater Cleveland. Earlier this month, however, the double alumna and mother of four passed away in her Gates Mills, Ohio, home. She was 89.

A 1955 graduate of Flora Stone Mather College, Jean Kalberer recalled performing on stage in the space that preceded the Maltz Center—Eldred Theater, located in the basement of a former YMCA built in 1897. All these years later, she told Maltz supporters in 2019, it was hard to believe “students are still having opening nights in Eldred.”

The Walter and Jean Kalberer Black Box Theatre view with seats surrounding the floor from three sides.

The Walter and Jean Kalberer black box theatre at the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center

Since Phase II opened nearly two years ago, the Walter and Jean Kalberer Black Box Theater has hosted everything from student improvisational groups and performances of award-winning plays such as Dancing at Lughnasa. With 100 movable seats, the space can accommodate all manner of performances.

Before their engagement with the Maltz project, the couple had enthusiastically backed the university’s collaboration with the Cleveland Play House to offer a highly regarded Master of Fine Arts degree program in professional acting. 

Walter and Jean Kalberer also regularly made gifts to the university’s law school, where Jean earned her JD degree in 1981—just over a quarter-century after she’d received her Bachelor of Arts. Her husband, Walter, earned his undergraduate degree from Adelbert College, while Lori, one of their four daughters, earned her Master of Business Administration from her parents’ alma mater.