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Schottenstein Donation to Honors Program Creates Stir

Recently, rumors have spread throughout the Wilf Campus that the Schottenstein family made a generous donation to Yeshiva College’s Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program.  Soon afterward, another rumor was started, namely that the University told the Honors Program that this money must be allocated for scholarship money, and was not to be used for programming. In truth, these rumors were only partially true, and led to great confusion.

Since its inception in 1999, the Honors Program’s primary funding has come from capital generated by an endowment fund created by the Schottensteins. Through this resource, the Honors Program is able to hire professors and run various programming throughout the year. The most recent gift, however, was given to serve a different function.  Contributions such as these are meant to be spent quickly, and are generally consumed within one year of their receipt.

Soon after the donation was made, word of the new funds spread fast throughout the campus. Students boasted that the donation was intended to be allocated solely for Honors programming over the next two years. Plans for grandiose Honors events were discussed. Soon after, another rumor spread: that the Honors Program’s new funding was being taken away, and that they would have to use the money for scholarships. Students who had already drawn up blueprints of programming to be created by this funding were flabbergasted.

However, based on actual discussions with various administrators, it seems that these rumors were no more than rumors, and originated from a misunderstanding.  Apparently, when the donation was made to the University, the Honors Program was notified of the donation but not told whether the donation was intended for a specific purpose or if the Program had free rein on the money. When Dr. Gabriel Cwilich, Director of the Honors Program, inquired about the details of the donation, he was informed that the donation was to be allocated toward Honors scholarships.

This addition to the scholarship fund would enable the honors program to both admit more students and be more generous with the scholarships distributed. According to Dr. Cwilich, it would not be practical for this money to be used for programming because it would involve creating programming which they would not necessarily have the funds to continue offering. Monies used for the Honors Program come from the original endowment fund provided by the Schottensteins. This guarantees that there are necessary resources to fund the programming in the future.

It seems that during this short window of uncertainty, between the time that the Honors Program was notified of the donation and the time that the nature of the donation was specified, the rumors of new funding for programming was spread.  It is still unclear how the rumor was started.

According to Daniel Forman, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, over the past few years, the board of Yeshiva has made it their top priority to raise money for scholarships.  Therefore, in a conversation between President Richard Joel and Jay Schottenstein, it was mutually decided that the money would go toward the scholarship fund. The donation would make it easier for students and their families to afford Yeshiva tuition.  At no point was the donation designed to fund future Honors programming.

With these new funds, Dr. Cwilich, hopes to increase the opportunities for students who did not enter Yeshiva in the Honors Program. Currently, scholarships are only given to students who apply to Yeshiva as first-year students, but not to those who transfer to Yeshiva, nor to those who decide to join the program once they have already begun their undergraduate education. These students often have trouble finishing all four years in the Honors Program, because they do not receive scholarships. This has been a one of Dr. Cwilich’s major concerns. He hopes that a portion of this new donation will go towards scholarships for these students’ fourth years on campus.

Over the past years, the Honors program has grown significantly. Three years ago, there were only ten students who graduated Yeshiva with honors, whereas this year there are close to thirty.