Paying it Forward
Drs. Brad ’82, P’12 and Penelope Cohen P’12
Support Education with Leadership Gifts
November 23, 2009
“It was never really on my radar to give back,” says Brad Cohen ’82, P’12. “But when the science building was built a few years ago, it started me thinking about my career, where I am in life and how I got here. It was all predicated on Muhlenberg College and the science program. At that time my own children were beginning to look at colleges, and I decided it was time to pay it forward.” Brad and his wife, Penelope “Penny” Cohen are recent supporters of the new science building, Hillel and The Muhlenberg Fund.
Although giving back is new to the Cohens, their Muhlenberg ties have been strong since Brad graduated in the early ’80s. “My friends from Muhlenberg are still my friends,” he says. There are also many Muhlenberg ties in the Cohen family. Brad’s brother, Randy, is a graduate, Class of ’84, as is his cousin Mark Lenner ’87. Brad’s nephew, Joshua ’11, is a current student as is Brad's son, Daniel ’12, who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, albeit with a different major and experience at ’Berg.
“Muhlenberg is still a small institution, but it is a lot friendlier than when I was a student,” says Brad. “At that time, the administration was not as supportive of students and the College itself was a very competitive place. I’m proud of how far the school has come – the environment is 1000% better.” Penny agrees. “At Muhlenberg, it’s not all about the numbers; the administration cares about the students as individuals.”
The Cohens also say that the liberal arts education that is offered at Muhlenberg is key, particularly in today’s world. “Kids lose something when they don’t have a well-rounded, liberal arts education,” says Brad. “This is one of the most valuable aspects of my Muhlenberg education. I know others who went on to become doctors who did not attend a liberal arts college and they tend to see the world very narrowly. At a place like Muhlenberg, students have the opportunity to get outside their comfort zone, to travel, take different classes outside their major and get to know the world a little bit.”
“There were some large personalities in the sciences when I was a student,” says Brad, citing Smart, Mortimer, Boyer, Vaughan and Schaeffer. “But I also took classes in the arts that were terrific. And in fact, one of the best classes I ever took was a religion course: Comparative Gospel. I think everyone could use a course in religion and I’ve encouraged my son to take one.”
By all accounts, Danny is having a wonderful Muhlenberg experience. “He’s having a great time,” says Brad. “He wouldn’t be anywhere that he doesn’t want to be. Danny wants to go into sports marketing but he also loves history. He’s interested in a business degree right now.”
Both Brad and Penny agree that Danny is lucky to be at Muhlenberg pursuing his dream. “In these economic hard times, many, many kids are going to have to work a lot more and may not end up going to college where they thought they could go. And it will be cheaper maybe, but the academic programs and the social aspect of the liberal arts education will be missed.”
“Penny agrees and says that, in part, is why they give back to Brad’s alma mater. “We support education because we believe in it,” says Penny. “I was a scholarship recipient when I was in college. My children are fortunate because we can pay the bill, but are those that can’t less worthy of an education? If everyone gave a little bit, we could ensure that all students who want to can go to Muhlenberg regardless of their ability to pay.”
“If I can speak for all the other alumni – we don’t expect or want to repaid for our contribution," says Brad. "The real payoff and satisfaction will come when we see these students graduate and become successful. The goal is to inspire a sense of humility, respect and gratitude. I hope that our generosity will be realized when these students become the future philanthropists of the Muhlenberg community – thereby giving others the same opportunity that was given to them. That's truly paying it forward!"