Greenberg family values are a continuing boon to CU
By Clint Talbott
For Richard and Eileen Greenberg, supporting the University of Colorado is more than a worthy cause. It’s both a family value and a continuing legacy.
Via their family foundation, the Greenbergs have supported the University of Colorado’s Jewish Studies Program. Personally, they have supported a course in the program and buttressed the program’s support for faculty. And their three adult children have launched a new scholarship program to which the whole family contributes.
The support has come at a critical time and has been received with deep gratitude.
When the economy collapsed in 2008, CU’s fledgling Jewish Studies Program could have suffered a crippling blow. But the Greenbergs made a significant donation through their family foundation, the Bender Foundation, for developmental and operational needs.
David Shneer, who had recently moved from the University of Denver to build CU’s Jewish Studies Program, said the economic turmoil threatened to derail the strategic plan for Jewish Studies. “Without their gift, we could not have stayed on track.”
That year, the couple also separately supported a new course called “Jews under Islam.” As Greenberg said at the time, “I think most Jews and most Muslims don’t appreciate how similar the religions are, and for many years Jews lived in Islamic countries, perhaps as second-class citizens, but they enjoyed greater freedom and greater harmony” than they did in some Christian states.
This year, the family foundation has made a $50,000 challenge grant that, if enough donors support the Greenberg’s vision, will be used to support faculty development and a new initiative in post-Holocaust American Judaism. “We said to ourselves, ‘If this is successful, this will be meaningful.’”
For most of the university’s history, opportunities to study Jewish culture and history were limited.
When the elder two of the Greenbergs’ three children attended CU, there were few opportunities to engage Jewishly on campus or learn the vast history of Jews, one of the world’s oldest global people. “We felt that maybe there needs to be more education in Jewish Studies,” Richard Greenberg says.
Additionally, he notes, Colorado’s public funding of CU and other state colleges and universities is hitting all-time lows, proportionately. This year, state funds account for about 5 percent of CU-Boulder’s budget.
“We think it’s important that the state university remain a state university,” Greenberg says, adding: “We live in Colorado. We love Colorado, and we love the university.”
Greenberg, a retired attorney, attended Queens College of the City University of New York and Rutgers University School of Law. But Eileen got her bachelor’s from CU in physical health in 1978. Their son Josh got his business degree from CU in 2006. Daughter Rachael graduated in 2009 with degrees in sociology and communication. Son Daniel is a junior in CU’s Leeds School of Business.
The younger generation is following in its elders’ footsteps.
Josh Greenberg, now an attorney, notes that the family decided to fund a new scholarship among themselves, not under the Bender Foundation umbrella. “It was important to us to make this impact on our own and on our own terms,” he says.
“We really wanted to give back to the University of Colorado.” We were both graduates at that point. We know CU could use the money, “and we like the idea of supporting a kid who may not have the means we did.”
The Greenberg Family Scholarship, first awarded this fall, aims to provide a four-year full-tuition scholarship to a student from Colorado who qualifies for financial aid and who has a grade-point average of at least 3.0. The scholarship is awarded to a student entering the CU College of Arts and Sciences.
The younger Greenbergs not only contributed to the scholarship alongside their parents, but they also helped select the recipient.
Prospective recipients were ranked in three categories: academics, leadership and community involvement. The university ranked each student’s academic strength, and the younger Greenbergs assessed 16 essays and resumes.
They made their rankings with the hope that the recipient might eventually “make an impact in the local community.”
“We knew that by donating to a scholarship, we knew we would be making a big impact on one person’s life.”
Timothy Stahley, the scholarship’s first recipient, emphasizes the positive impact on his life. He says, “I would like to tell the Greenberg family I can’t thank them enough!”
For more about CU’s program in Jewish Studies, see www.colorado.edu/jewishstudies. To hear David Shneer discuss his research in a recent interview on Colorado Public Radio, see http://www.cpr.org/#load_article%7CDenver_Remembers_the_Babi_Yar_Massacre. For more information about supporting scholarships, contact Kimberly Bowman at 303-541-1446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.