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Cohen gift crowns student athletic and academic success

The 14th annual Spartan Academic Excellence Gala, which each spring recognizes the academic achievements of student-athletes, had a special designation this year—one that provides for future Spartans to receive similar accolades and encouragement.

The gifts that began the Dr. Bruce J. and Linda W. Cohen Student-Athlete Endowment will ensure that the students and their families will continue to be honored at the gala in perpetuity, with Bruce and Linda as the grand sponsors. With a combination of cash, pledges and planned gifts, the Cohens were recognized in the Frank S. Kedzie Donor Society for their contributions.

Devoted Spartan sports fans and former educators, the Cohens recognized the need for student-athletes to not only develop their athletic skills but also to prepare academically for eventual careers outside of sports. The gala provided the opportunity to support both endeavors. This year’s event was held on April 9th in Kellogg Center’s Big Ten Room and honored 267 student-athletes at the sophomore or higher level, who had earned a 3.0 or better cumulative grade point. There were a record 750 people on hand to celebrate these accomplishments.

>“You never know what may come your way,” Bruce said. “Education will give you the ability to adapt and make the most of every opportunity.”

He speaks from experience. When he arrived on campus for freshman orientation in the fall of 1955 as a self-described naïve young man from a small town in New York, it was the first time he had seen MSU. He certainly didn’t anticipate completing not only his B.A. in Social Science, but also an M.A. in Education and a Ph.D. in Social Science as well, followed by eight years of service as an MSU faculty member and administrator.

The skills he developed in higher education later provided the perfect background for a successful business, which began with an observation that Bruce made on a cruise that he and Linda took on their honeymoon. Bruce thought that the tranquility of a cruise ship at sea, far away from the distractions of a busy office practice, along with state-of-the-art conference venues, would make a perfect setting to offer continuing professional education seminars. While in port, Bruce envisioned that joint seminars with local professionals could be scheduled.

Bruce drew on his MSU education to research and launch the concept. “Whatever modest success I have achieved is largely attributable to my time at MSU,” he said.

Linda, who had taught mathematics for many years, was his able partner. Together, in 1979, they founded International Conferences, a provider of worldwide continuing medical, dental, nursing and legal education seminars, and operated it for 27 years before its sale in 2006.

Encouraging student-athletes to succeed in academics, as well as sports, and to reward them for their efforts was important to the Cohens.

“Of all the many things for which I am proud of MSU, the one that means the most to me is that MSU has always been student-oriented,” Bruce said. “At MSU, students come first.”

“When one path you might be on doesn’t work out, education can always provide a secondary route in life,” Linda said, adding that the Spartan Academic Excellence Gala is a nice thank you to the students for all their hard work. “And we love the fact that many proud parents are in attendance, because they have sacrificed as well.”

By lending their name to, and endowing the Spartan Academic Excellence Gala as grand sponsors, Bruce and Linda have guaranteed that Spartan scholars will be recognized by the University community for their accomplishments in the decades to come.

For more information on making a gift to intercollegiate athletics, contact the Spartan Fund at (517) 432-4610 or visit For more information on making a planned gift, contact the Office of Planned Giving at (517) 884-1000.