As a biology teacher and department head for E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Jack Cohen helped educate young people for most of his life.
Retired in 1989 after 31 years, Cohen still believes deeply in the value of education and has decided to support it even after he is gone. Cohen has pledged his considerable estate to establish an endowed scholarship fund at the University of Connecticut, which governed E.O. Smith during much of his tenure at the high school.
Financial support for college is something Cohen knows about first hand. “Friends of family helped me while I was in college,” says Cohen, who relied on the G.I. bill after serving in the military during World War II to get his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and his master’s degree from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He received a master’s degree in education from UConn in 1965.
For the grandchildren of a close friend, Cohen has provided a helping hand, covering room and board. He continues to help with college expenses. “I have one more to get through college,” says Cohen, who never had children of his own.
Cohen’s passion for helping is encouraged by his memory of a colleague’s story about growing up poor and going to college with help from the family who employed her mother as a maid. “After hearing that story, my wife said we should do something like that,’” says Cohen. His wife passed away more than 20 years ago but her memory will live on with his, through the fund that will carry their names, the Jack and Francine Cohen Scholarship.
“I’m fortunate that I have done well in life and I am happy I can help,” says Cohen.
The UConn Foundation, which raises funds from private sources to support the University, is ramping up its efforts to increase scholarship support for UConn students, says Heather McDonald, director of development for the Neag School of Education.
“During the 2010-2011 academic year, 72 percent of UConn undergraduates applied for need-based financial aid and 76 percent of those who applied received it. But of those who received need-based financial aid, only 16% had their need fully met,” says McDonald. “We are working to make our alumni and friends aware of the University’s growing need for privately funded scholarships. Mr. Cohen’s generous gift will make a huge difference to a lot of our students.”