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Roosevelt University announces $25 million gift, largest in the University’s history

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This magnificent gift will be used to support student scholarships, in accordance with Mrs. Rosaline Cohn’s wishes. Ali Malekzadeh Roosevelt University President

Roosevelt University announced today that it has been designated to receive a bequest in the approximate amount of $25 million, the largest gift in the University’s history.

The bequest is from the estate of Rosaline Cohn of Chicago, who died in 2010 at the age of 97, and from the estate of Mrs. Cohn’s daughter, Marcia Cohn, who died last year.

“This magnificent gift will be used to support student scholarships, in accordance with Mrs. Rosaline Cohn’s wishes,” said Roosevelt University President Ali Malekzadeh.  “Mrs. Cohn believed in the transformative nature of higher education.  She was a long-time friend and supporter of Roosevelt University and for several decades has helped Roosevelt students through the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Scholarship Fund.”

In a letter Mrs. Cohn wrote in 1984 to then Roosevelt President Rolf A. Weil, Mrs. Cohn said: “Feeling as strongly as I do that education should be available to those who seek it and are qualified to be helped, I am more than gratified to be of some support.”

Patricia Harris, chair of Roosevelt’s Board of Trustees, said that the gift will “increase the strength of Roosevelt’s endowment and perpetuate the University’s mission of enabling deserving and talented students to achieve a first rate education.  We are overwhelmed with the size and generosity of this gift and are extremely grateful to Mrs. Cohn for her thoughtfulness and devotion to Roosevelt University.”

Dr. Malekzadeh said the terms of the bequest will allow Roosevelt to use approximately $1.2 million each year for scholarships.

Mrs. Cohn’s late husband, Jacob, was a 19-year-old immigrant when he began selling and delivering fresh coffee to restaurants by horse and buggy in 1915.  By the late 1930s, he had built a successful business called Continental Coffee Company.

His sons, Alvin and Robert, expanded the firm to include grocery products and frozen foods after their father’s death in 1968.  The firm was renamed CFS Continental in 1970 when it went public.  Fourteen years later it was sold to A.E. Staley for $353 million.

Jacob Cohn was one of the first contributors to Roosevelt University.  He gave $200 to Roosevelt in December of 1945, just three months after the new college opened.  He then made annual gifts of $100 until 1957 when he increased his contributions to $500 a year.

In another letter Mrs. Cohn wrote in 1984, she elaborated on why she was giving to higher education.  “I am interested in people, rather than causes,” she said.  “I would like to contribute to the areas of education and science which will help to improve the quality of life for the younger and older generations – not in the abstract – but in a positive and practical way.”

The previous largest gift to Roosevelt was $5 million in 2002 from alumna Florence Miner for students and programs in Roosevelt’s Computer Science program. 

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