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Leveling the Playing Field

Cohen bequest builds MSU's academic and athletic excellence

From Left: Kevin Jackson, political science junior and member  of MSU’s Track and Field team; Klarissa Bell, education  sophomore  and member  of the MSU Women’s Basketball  team and Kirk Cousins,  Honors College and kinesiology senior and member  of

Being a student is tough. Being a student athlete is even tougher.

MSU student-athletes must meet the same academic expectations of any other student, but with the added pressure of competing in a collegiate sport at a world-class level. Balancing these demands requires tremendous discipline, commitment, focus and a strong work ethic.

As devoted Spartan sports fans and longtime professional educators, Bruce and Linda Cohen recognize that individuals who can successfully navigate their way through obtaining a college degree while competing in top-flight athletic programs have a lot to offer the world. They found a unique way to build on the potential of these students to create the next generation of leaders. They have committed a significant future gift through their estate to establish the Dr. Bruce and Linda W. Cohen Graduate Fellows Program.

The program they envision will gather a cohort of former athletes pursuing graduate education who wish to reach back to help the academic achievement of current student-athletes.

Future Cohen Fellows not only will be supported for advanced academic preparation in their chosen fields; but they will be enabled through Student-Athlete Support Services to serve as models for undergraduate student-athletes.

“The Cohen Fellows Program will have the dual mission of supporting the graduate education of former Spartan student-athletes by funding multiple Graduate Assistantships, as well as enhancing the undergraduate learning experience of current student-athletes at Michigan State through interaction with the fellows,” says Bruce and Linda. “We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with both the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Office of the Provost during the planning phases for the endowment, as input and commitment from both parties were essential to insure future success.”

The Cohen Graduate Fellows program greatly enhances MSU’s ability to recruit outstanding graduate students who are uniquely qualified to mentor and guide undergraduate student-athletes, notes June Youatt, senior associate provost.

“The Cohens see the great capacity of former student-athletes who are also strong academically to contribute to the undergraduate learning experience,” she says. “They’ve allowed us to reinforce MSU’s commitment to athletic and academic distinction in a very tangible way.”

Bruce and Linda also envision that the recruitment of student-athletes will be given a tactical advantage at MSU, “since financial support for graduate education will be available through the Cohen Fellows Program after athletic eligibility expires,” says Bruce.

Bruce J. Cohen received his BA, MA and PhD degrees from MSU and served on the faculty and administration of the university for eight years. Linda W. Cohen holds BS, MS and MA degrees, and taught mathematics in New York State for 20 years. Together, they founded International Conferences, a provider of worldwide continuing medical, dental, nursing and legal education, and operated this business for 27 years.

Encouraging Spartan student-athletes to succeed in academics as well as sports has long been important to the Cohens. Through previous gifts, they assured that the Spartan Academic Excellence Gala, which each spring celebrates the academic achievements of student-athletes, will continue in perpetuity with Linda and Bruce as the grand sponsors.  They are recognized in the Joseph R. Williams Donor Society for their contributions.

“We are grateful to the Cohens for their deep commitment to providing MSU studentathletes with the opportunity to develop not only their athletic skills but also the academic foundation for their lifetime professional careers,” says Mark Hollis, athletics director.

“Their generosity will make a lasting difference in the futures of MSU student-athletes individually as well as make a profound impact on maintaining the excellence of our entire program.”

To explore how you might remember Michigan State University through a commitment in your estate plans, contact the Development Officer in the college or program you wish to support or the MSU Office of Gift Planning at (517) 884-1000.