Brandeis receives $50 million gift for student scholarships

August 25, 2017

More Brandeis students will now be able to receive financial aid, thanks to a $50 million donation from the estate of Chicago philanthropists Rosaline Cohn and her daughter Marcia, the largest single gift Brandeis has ever received.

The Cohns requested that their donation, which the university received in June, be added to the already established Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Endowed Scholarship that will provide financial aid each year to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students.

“One can only smile a big smile upon hearing such news,” said University President Ron Liebowitz. “And for it to be restricted for us for financial aid is so fitting and is very much needed.”

The Cohns have a legacy of giving to Brandeis, although no one in the family ever attended the university or had any official connection to it. In 1951, Jacob Cohn and his wife Rosaline donated $100 to the university, and the family has continued to do so ever since.

When Jacob Cohn passed away, Rosaline Cohn established the Cohn Fund in memory of her husband with a gift of $32,600, specifying that the money be used to support students pursuing their education.

“Rosaline and Marcia established the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Endowed Scholarship in 1976 to benefit undergraduate and graduate students at Brandeis,” said chief philanthropic advisor Nancy Winship. “Their estate directed the $50 million gift to be added to this scholarship, which will support hundreds of Brandeis students each year.”

No new fund will be created specifically for the $50 million, but the money will go towards the already established fund. “We needn’t create a ‘new’ scholarship program, but scholars funded by the Cohn Funds, which will go to endowment, can be named ‘Cohn Scholars,’” Liebowitz said. “The $50 million will generate around $2.5 million for our operating budget and so long as our endowment grows, that $2.5 [million] of funds each year will grow too.”

Because of the Cohns’ history of giving to the university, the actual donation was not a surprise, but the amount was, according to Liebowitz. “We knew we would be receiving a large bequest for the last year or so,” Liebowitz said. “Before that, we also knew we would be getting a bequest from Mrs. Cohn but…everyone thought it was going to be maybe $4-5 million, not $50 million. That was a big surprise.”

Although both Rosaline and Marcia Cohn are no longer living, they were unwavering in their support of Brandeis despite never having attended. Rosaline and her daughter were inspired by the inclusivity and dedication to academic excellence of the university, informed by Jewish values, Liebowitz said in a BrandeisNOW article.

The Cohns also attended many Brandeis events and were very involved with the university, especially with President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, PhD’72. “I knew Marcia and Rosaline for decades, as did Jehuda,” said Winship. “They attended many Brandeis events in Chicago and on campus, including the University’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1998. They were gracious and generous women, and it was a privilege to have known them.”

The Cohns’ love for Brandeis and passion for education will continue to live on through their donation, which will continue to help Brandeis students for years to come. “I was deeply saddened to learn of Marcia’s untimely passing, but the knowledge that she, her mother and her father cared so deeply about Brandeis and our students brought me great satisfaction,” Winship said.

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