The Face Behind the Gift

Posted: September 16, 2011

The experience of every college student is touched by the gifts of institutional donors in some way. For many students though, these benefactors exist only as names on buildings, new furniture in common areas, and criteria for scholarships. Few learn about the lives of donors and why they gave, and even fewer have the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.

At Rosemont College, one recent benefactor became more than just a name by lending both financial support and emotional encouragement to students. With gifts of more than $769,000 in her lifetime and more than $5 million in her estate, Eleanor Weisbrod funded three scholarships, a partial renovation of the campus library, and numerous other projects. Beyond these gifts, Weisbrod extended her legacy at Rosemont by visiting campus numerous times and building relationships with the students who received her scholarship.

“Eleanor’s giving spirit was so generous,” said recipient Lauren Curtis ’05. “Even outside the scholarship, she wanted to make sure I had everything I needed for school.”

Curtis visited with Weisbrod at least 10 times during her years at Rosemont, mostly on campus and once at Weisbrod’s home in northern New Jersey. She introduced Weisbrod to her family and the two also stayed in touch by phone. She noted that Weisbrod was always supportive of her goals, and that she encouraged her to work hard in school.

“She gave me not just financial, but emotional support for college,” said Curtis. “She really went above and beyond.”

The scholarship Curtis received is a partial tuition award given based on academic excellence and demonstrated financial need, with preference given to those majoring in math. It is named for Sister Helen Mary Weisbrod, SHCJ, Eleanor Weisbrod’s sister and the director of financial aid at Rosemont from 1980 until her death in 1987. Eleanor Weisbrod’s estate later funded the Eleanor Mary Weisbrod Endowed Scholarship and, in honor of her parents, The Joseph and Helen Weisbrod Endowed Scholarship.

An additional $500,000 was used to remodel the campus library’s lobby and reference room into the Remembering Sister Helen Mary Weisbrod, SHCJ Information Commons. Designed by Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site, the Information Commons aims to promote teamwork and new technology with group study areas and laptop computers.

Before she passed away in 2008, Eleanor Weisbrod said she hoped her gift to the library would reenergize the space and transform it into a gathering place for students and faculty members.

In her long career, Weisbrod worked as a teacher, a chemist, and a marketing manager for American Home Products, which would later become Wyeth. A devout Catholic, she volunteered at her local hospital and library for many years. She was a graduate of Georgian Court University, and the first woman to receive an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 2003, Weisbrod received honorary degrees from both Georgian Court and Rosemont.

In her address to the graduates, she shared her thoughts on the Rosemont experience and imparted a piece of advice borrowed from Dr. Seuss. “You have brains in your head and feet on your shoes,” she quoted. “You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

She also encouraged in her own words, “Ask for the grace to be pointed in the right direction – then go forward with confidence and trust in your decision.”

The final distribution of Eleanor Weisbrod’s gift to Rosemont College occurred in 2011. Though the opportunity to meet this special benefactor in person has passed, her memory lives through the library space she helped create and the students her scholarship continues to support.

“Affordability is a growing concern for today’s college students,” noted President Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D. ’70. “We recognize this at Rosemont, and make it a priority to provide financial support for exemplary students. A gift like Eleanor’s truly makes a difference for years to come in our campus community.”

Last Updated: September 16, 2011