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August 15 – Mug Club Happy Hour
by Lynne Winter
Transformative gift from Rob and Molly Cohen makes college dream possible for more students.
Thanks to a generous new financial gift to Metropolitan State University of Denver, the Cohen Pacesetter Scholarship Program is expanding to help students in need Universitywide.
A previous donation from Rob and Molly Cohen launched the program in 2017 to support MSU Denver student-athletes.
But the couple, who has supported the University and its mission for decades, wanted to help a greater number of the hardworking and tenacious MSU Denver students who they say are transforming the city, state and world for the better.
“Molly and I learned early in our lives that if you’re blessed and you’re given gifts, then what really makes this world a special place is when you pay it forward, and when you give back to others,” said Rob Cohen, chairman and CEO of IMA Financial Group Inc. and a former longtime member and chair of the MSU Denver Board of Trustees.
The Pacesetter program doesn’t just provide financial support for students but also funds wraparound services, so students feel fully supported through their respective academic journeys. Under the expanded program, about 20% of recipients will be student-athletes, but the scholarship will also benefit students who aren’t in Athletics.
At a recent reception honoring the gift and scholarship expansion, MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., said the Cohens “are the heart and soul of so many parts of this University.”
“To me, Rob and Molly are the epitome of civic leaders,” she said. “They lead from the heart. Their values are used in everything they do to lead their company as well as their family, and we like to think of ourselves as part of your family as well.”
Brittney Kocman certainly does.
A first-generation student and 2020 graduate, she spoke at the reception about how the scholarship made her education at MSU Denver possible. Kocman’s mother died in a car accident when she was just 14 years old. Her main goal was to make her mom proud, and her love for sports and learning kept her focused on that goal.
She made the track and cross-country teams as a walk-on while working part-time and going to school full-time. But balancing it all started to become too much. Her coach, Janis Christopher, submitted her for consideration and Kocman was selected to be one of the first to receive the Pacesetter Scholarship in 2017.
She graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics and now works at Lockheed Martin, a feat she accomplished with the help of Rob and Molly Cohen.
“To this day I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more loving and caring than they are,” Kocman said. “They are truly family to me. … This is about family at the end of the day, and supporting students in need that aren’t afraid of dreaming big and working hard is what the scholarship is about. Even if everything is stacked up against them, simply put, no one’s uncontrollable circumstances should keep them from achieving their goals.”
Junior women’s tennis player Kayla Myburgh of Australia has been a Cohen Pacesetter Scholar for three years and says that the support from the program helps her focus on her dream of earning a degree while playing the game she loves.
“This scholarship has given me the opportunity to take my mind off worrying about making ends meet,” she said. “To be able to have that financial stability to play tennis, to go to school and complete my degree is incredible.
The new Cohen Pacesetter Scholarship Program, which will launch in fall of 2023, is a cohort model where students receive scholarships, supportive services tailored to their needs, mentoring and programming to help them thrive during their time at MSU Denver and all the way through to graduation.
The cohort model gives the students a sense of belonging and provides them with programming that helps them navigate the college experience. Students will also engage in activities designed to “pay it forward,” giving back to the University, community and other students.
The Cohens hope their recent donation will inspire others to be a part of the Pacesetter Scholarship Program and grow the endowment up to $20 million, which would support up to 80 students every year in perpetuity.
“Anybody can be a part of this,” said Christine Márquez-Hudson, vice president of University Advancement and executive director of the MSU Denver Foundation. “The end goal is to attract additional donors who want to join with the Cohens to create a comprehensive program that can achieve a terrific impact in perpetuity.”
Eligible students will be selected by MSU Denver’s Office of Student Affairs. The University’s Athletics Department will collaborate on the 20% of scholarships that will be awarded to student-athletes.
“We believe that MSU Denver has what is needed for our city, state and country,” Molly Cohen said. “We want to invest in a school where everyone is valued and everyone is hard working. It’s just an absolute honor to be a part of that. We will continue to look for hope and light in the world. We will continue to partner with MSU Denver and the students and athletes who each have their own amazing stories.”
MSU Denver students will be able to apply for the Cohen Pacesetter Scholarship Program beginning in December 2022. For more information, contact Rachael Durham at [email protected] or Nahum Kisner [email protected].