What’s in a Name? New Opportunity

A husband’s gift transforms the UW School of Social Work.

Joel Berman and Stephanie Robert, alongside a photo of Berman's late wife, Sandra Rosenbaum

Stephanie Robert and Joel Berman with a photo of Sandra Rosenbaum: “I wanted her name to be associated with a place she loved.” Jason Lee

When Joel Berman lost his wife, Sandra Rosenbaum ’72, MS ’76, in the summer of 2017, he knew exactly how to honor her memory. A graduate of the UW–Madison School of Social Work, she understood that many potential social workers abandon their graduate studies due to lack of funds. So she had encouraged Berman to support scholarships to help put dedicated, well-trained social workers into the field as quickly as possible.

Berman fulfilled that promise by starting a scholarship fund, but Rosenbaum had no idea just how far he would go to fulfill her dream. Berman went on to amplify his original scholarship to a transformative commitment of $25 million, prompting UW–Madison to name its School of Social Work in her honor: the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work.

The gift, the largest in the school’s history, is another way for Berman, the founder and former CEO of Iatric Systems, a health care technology company, to honor his love for Rosenbaum.

“I felt I wanted to do more,” says Berman, who also serves on the College of Letters & Science Board of Visitors. “It makes me feel good to say to the world, ‘I love my wife,’ and I wanted her name to be associated with a place she loved.”

Rosenbaum was inspired by her mother, Harriet ’48, a UW graduate and New York social worker who spent her career helping teenage girls in the Long Island area. Although Rosenbaum worked in the field only for a short time, those years remained a key part of her life.

“Sandy used to love coming back to Madison to visit the Terrace, eat some Babcock ice cream, and drive the loop around campus over and over,” Berman says. “It was literally like sacred ground to her.”

Berman’s attachment to the school is strong. He makes a point of reading every student-essay application to the Harriet Rosenbaum Scholarship, and he meets the winners each year at a celebration for awardees. He relishes the opportunity to be part of making a difference for future generations of social workers.

“The values of helping people, which meant so very much to my wife, will be forwarded by this gift,” says Berman. “Plus, I get to see the people I’m helping.”

Stephanie Robert, professor and director of the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, adds, “With this exciting announcement, the school becomes one of the few named schools of social work in the country.”

The gift will provide resources to endow faculty positions, bolster scholarship opportunities, assist PhD students, and benefit many other areas within the school, which works in partnership with more than 400 local community agencies. It will also allow the school to further diversify its student body, support an inclusive environment, and expand its work around issues of racial and social justice.

Published in the Fall 2020 issue

Tags: administration, Alumni, Social sciences, social work, Teaching and learning

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