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New chair of CCPA advisory board aims to give voice to students

Business and community leader Gwen Cohen takes reins as CCPA marks 150 years
Performing Arts, Roosevelt's Chicago
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Gwen Cohen
Gwen Cohen

Chicagoan Gwen Cohen, the new chair of a citizen’s advisory board to Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA), is not a professional performer.

As first vice president and wealth advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, her expertise really is in serving the financial needs of individuals, families and business owners in Chicago and beyond.

However, Cohen, who struggled a lot growing up as a stutterer, understands better than most how important it is to find, develop and establish a voice.

“My mother told me: ‘When you speak words, it’s music to someone’s ears,’” said Cohen, who will lead a 26-member board advising CCPA as it looks toward marking the 150th anniversary of its Music Conservatory and the 20th anniversary of its Theatre Conservatory on March 14.

Thanks to motivation from her mother and father, Cohen overcame being bullied in school and graduated at the top of her class. She sang with church and local groups, with a female quintet and won spelling bees. Though she occasionally stutters, she is comfortable today speaking both at large gatherings and on TV.

“What I see with some students at CCPA is that they come in prepared as they can be academically.  In more than a few cases, there’s a need to better support their financial and emotional reservoirs,” said Cohen, who previously has been a member of the CCPA advisory board.

“One of my goals as the new chair,” she said, “is to make sure that under-represented students get scholarships and appropriate guidance in order to find a voice that will lead to their success.”

Cohen’s appointment to lead CCPA’s citizen advisory board comes at an exciting time for the college, which recently received nearly $8 million in major gifts for educational program enhancement and capital improvements as well as student scholarships.

“The combination of Gwen Cohen’s passion for what we do and her strong business background is going to be very helpful as we think through how we use nearly $8 million in new gifts, and how we manage our growth in a sustainable way,” said Henry Fogel, dean of CCPA.

A member of the Chicago branch of the wealth management team at Morgan Stanley and its predecessor brands for more than 30 years, Cohen also serves on WTTW’s Advisory Council and is a member of the Goodman Theatre Spotlight Society. 

Cohen said her immediate goal as advisory board chair is to support CCPA and its students in celebrating the college’s music and theatre conservatory milestones at the upcoming VIVID Gala and Showcase of CCPA faculty and student talent that will be held on March 14 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. 

“I hope to motivate and inspire the greater Chicago business community to support the Gala through sponsorships. All proceeds from this event will be used to support student scholarships,” Cohen said. 

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