A Lasting Gift to Students

June 14, 2021 by Alexander Gelfand

Johns Hopkins graduate Don Kerr encourages legacy giving to provide enduring support for the Class of 1973 Undergraduate Scholarship Fund

As a veteran management consultant, Don Kerr has spent decades helping companies improve their performance. When he began contemplating a legacy gift to the university that put him on the path to that career in the first place — “I couldn’t have done it without the training in economics I got at Hopkins,” — Kerr did what any good consultant would do: his research.

And he discovered that when it came to scholarship funds, Hopkins was operating at a competitive disadvantage. “I became aware of just how extreme the competition among the top universities was,” Kerr says from his home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

That competitive need was not erased by the $1.8 billion gift from fellow alumnus Michael Bloomberg to Hopkins in 2018. The university still urgently needs contributions from other donors to recruit deserving students from low- and middle income families. “It didn’t solve the student aid problem for all time,” says Kerr, who is devoted to making a Hopkins education accessible to the most promising students regardless of means.

A man wearing a blue suit and blue tie presents a large check to a woman in a dress and black sweater and a man in a dark suit with yellow tie.
In 2018, Don Kerr (left) presented the Class of 1973 gift, which included support for scholarships, to former Krieger School Dean Beverly Wendland and Whiting School of Engineering Dean Ed Schlesinger.

Kerr and his wife established a gift through a trust to establish the Donald and Irene Kerr Scholarship Fund for undergraduates in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Not long afterwards, Kerr became involved with his 45th class reunion committee, which decided to establish a Class of 1973 Undergraduate Scholarship Fund for students in both the Krieger School and the Whiting School of Engineering.

This activity led the couple to make an additional contribution to the trust specifically for the Class of ’73 fund. For Kerr, giving back to Hopkins is a family affair: His father was a member of the physics faculty, and Kerr’s own tuition was fully covered. “I always felt that I should repay the university someday,” Kerr says.

Kerr’s advisor at Hopkins, the renowned economist Carl F. Christ, earned his PhD at the University of Chicago, and after graduation, Kerr headed to Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where he studied with future Nobel laureates George Stigler and Milton Friedman. He then spent 26 years with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he led the company’s financial services practice before setting up his own shop, DEK and Associates, in 2001.

Kerr continues to do strategic consulting work with senior executives. “But it’s no longer 24/7,” he says. Which is just as well, since he has a newfound passion: encouraging his fellow classmates to make their own contributions to the Class of 1973 Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

From the outset, Kerr had two goals in mind: raising enough money in outright gifts to get the fund up and running right now, and securing the fund’s future through legacy gifts that will provide significant student aid in the years to come. Kerr and 46 of his fellow classmates have already pledged the $100,000 in cash contributions required to endow an undergraduate scholarship at Hopkins.

 

“I see the class scholarship as a way of combining my efforts along with those of other classmates to give something that really makes a difference.”

Warren Rosman 1973 Classmate of Don Kerr

Now his eye is on the long-term prize: “We want to make it 10 times that size at a minimum,” he says, explaining that the reunion committee hopes to solicit legacy gifts totaling $1 million by the time their 50th reunion rolls around.

Warren Rosman, an attorney in Cleveland who lived just a few houses down from Kerr during their senior year, was one of the first classmates to respond. Like Kerr, Rosman hailed from a middle-class family; and he and his wife are deeply committed to making higher education affordable to all.

Towards that end, the Rosmans have made a commitment to leave a portion of their combined estate to Hopkins. Some of those funds will establish the Warren and Debra Rosman Department of History Travel Fund to support travel and conference fees for both undergraduate and graduate students. The remainder will help grow the Class of 1973 Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

“I see the class scholarship as a way of combining my efforts along with those of other classmates to give something that really makes a difference,” Rosman says.

Kerr agrees. Legacy gifts have already made the Class of 1973 Undergraduate Scholarship Fund the largest such fund at the university; and Kerr hopes that it will inspire other classes to consider making estate gifts as well. “It all adds up,” he says.

Make Your Gift

Interested in joining the Class of 1973 in supporting undergraduate scholarships?

Topics: Alumni, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Whiting School of Engineering, Support Scholars