A $5 million gift from Irene Rosenfeld ’75, MS ’77, PhD ’80 and Richard Illgen will establish the Rosenfeld/Illgen Scholarship and support the university’s efforts to make Cornell even more affordable for students from all backgrounds.
This gift, Irene says, aligns perfectly with the couple’s passion for education. “Cornell played a key role in shaping the person I am today,” Irene says. “It nourished my intellectual curiosity and led to lifelong friendships. I am happy to give back to an institution that gave so much to me.”
Irene has been heavily involved with the university for many years. She served on the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW) and the Cornell University Board of Trustees, and she returns to campus as often as possible to teach students about marketing and strategy, drawing on her extensive business experience.
Irene and Richard have supported the university philanthropically as well, making significant gifts to areas of the university that have been especially meaningful to their family. The couple endowed the Women’s Basketball head coach’s office in honor of Irene’s parents; established an endowed chair in psychology, Irene’s major at Cornell; and have been ongoing contributors to Cornell Hillel, where their daughter Allison Rosenfeld ’08 was active during her time at Cornell.
Ezra Cornell’s founding principle of “… any person … any study” resonates with Irene and Richard, as does the mission of Cornell’s To Do the Greatest Good campaign.
“I’ve been passionate about education my whole life. Accessible, high-quality education is critical to the future of our country,” Irene explains. “The opportunity to give back in that space is really important to me.”
Irene and Richard hope their support will inspire Cornell students to stay committed and complete their education. Their new $5M gift was made specifically to lessen students’ debt burden: it will support 170 students attending any of the university’s colleges and schools in any area of study each year. Each scholarship student will receive a loan-reducing grant of $1,250 per year for the duration of their undergraduate experience ($5,000 total).
The couple hopes their gift will inspire other alumni to support Cornell in ways that are personally meaningful.
“I’m hopeful that one of the silver linings of the pandemic was the possibility for alumni to access and experience the university in new ways, bringing them closer to Cornell,” Irene says. “The opportunity to further Cornell’s mission, by helping to address some of the challenges it faces, is there for the taking.”
This gift, along with gifts from other generous donors, has helped the university cross $300M raised toward a campaign goal of $500M for undergraduate student affordability.