Gratz College has received an endowment gift of about $1 million, which was announced at the college’s Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gala and bequeathed by Berenice Abrams, a 1936 alumna, in memory of her parents.
Gratz College has received an endowment gift of about $1 million — the largest in its 120-year history.
The gift, which was announced at the college’s Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gala, was bequeathed by Berenice Abrams, a 1936 alumna, in memory of her parents. The Benjamin and Dorothy Abrams Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships to teachers working in the field of Jewish education.
Abrams died in August 2014 at the age of 96.
After her time at Gratz, Abrams earned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania and also studied graduate-level social work. She was an avid traveler and volunteer.
Her gravestone reads: “A strong and independent woman, generous benefactor of Jewish education.”
But Abrams’ family said Berenice Abrams was a bit of a conundrum.
“In some ways, it’s hard to explain this gift,” said Susan Thomas, whose husband was a cousin. “She wasn’t actively involved in Jewish education.”
In addition, Thomas said Abrams wasn’t particularly connected to Gratz, noting that many people attending the gala weren’t familiar with her.
That said, Thomas indicated the bequest fit with her outspoken personality and overall drive. She said that Abrams was an active member of Har Zion Temple well into her 90s and ran a seniors luncheon where she did much of the cooking.
“The vast majority of the people [at the luncheon] were younger than she was,” Thomas said.
Abrams never married, but inherited a modest sum of money and worked as a social worker. She accumulated wealth through active investing, Thomas said.
Gratz President Joy Goldstein said Abrams managed her own funds and was actively trading up until the week before her death.
Abrams told Goldstein that her father wanted her to attend Gratz, but she was hesitant. Abrams’ father told his daughter to try it for three months to see how she felt about it. Her sister, Gladys, also attended the college.
More than 70 years later, it’s now apparent how Abrams felt about the college.
The Abrams bequest brings Gratz’s overall endowment to $4.8 million. Goldstein said that raising money — referred to as “institutional advancement” — is critically important these days to all colleges and universities.
“It’s the job of everyone in the institution,” she said. “It’s very rare or nearly impossible to find an institution that is completely tuition-driven.”
Like most financial contributions today, the Abrams gift is permanently restricted, which means it is earmarked for a specific use, Goldstein said. She noted that the Congressional Research Service has determined that about 90 percent of endowment contributions at colleges nationwide fall into that category.
“Donors today are very sophisticated,” Goldstein said. “They want to support institutions important to them during their lifetimes.”
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