Fulfilling a Promise
In the summer of 2017, Joel Berman approached leadership at the UW–Madison School of Social Work about a promise he made to his wife, Sandra Rosenbaum. She wanted him to donate to the school in order to put dedicated, well-trained social workers into the field as quickly as possible while reducing the financial barriers to earning the degree. When Sandy passed away that summer, Joel was determined to fulfill that promise.
He’s done that and much more. What started with a scholarship fund has become a transformative gift to the school, which will now be named the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work.
Continuing Our Reputation for Excellence
“With this exciting announcement, the school becomes one of the few named schools of social work in the country,” says Stephanie Robert, professor and director of the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work. “This generous gift will support us in continuing our reputation for excellence by allowing us to further enhance our research, teaching, and service missions.”
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 and life with Sandra Rosenbaum.
“I felt I wanted to do more,” says Berman, who also serves on the 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.”
Berman’s gift will benefit a variety of programs and positions within the school, including the doctoral program, named professorships, and scholarships and student support funds that will allow the school to further diversify its student body, support an inclusive environment, and expand the school’s impactful work around issues of racial and social justice.
Sandra Rosenbaum’s Story
Sandra Rosenbaum was inspired by her mother, Harriet, a UW graduate and New York social worker who spent her career helping teenaged girls in the Long Island area. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in 1972, Sandra received her graduate degree in social work also from UW–Madison in 1976. Although she 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,” says Berman. “It was literally like sacred ground to her.”
Berman’s attachment to the school, which began with his wife, is strong. He makes a point of reading every student essay submitted in application to the Harriet Rosenbaum Scholarship he created and meets the winners each year at a celebratory event for awardees. He says 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.”
The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work offers a social welfare undergraduate major, a bachelor’s degree in social work, a full-time and part-time master’s in social work, and a doctorate in social welfare. Its world-renowned faculty members pursue research, teaching, practice, and service, and the school works in partnership with more than 400 community agencies.