School of Social Work announces largest gift to date

A $5 million gift honors two UW-Madison alumni and supports graduate students pursuing careers in social work.

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Joel F. Berman

Ethel Sandra "Sandy" Rosenbaum

Harriet Abelson Rosenbaum

In honor of his late wife's and his mother-in-law’s dedication to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work, Joel F. Berman has announced a gift of $5 million to support graduate students. It is the largest gift the school has ever received.

Ethel Sandra “Sandy” Rosenbaum received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology in 1972 and a master’s degree in social work from the university in 1976. Her mother, Harriet Abelson Rosenbaum, was a 1948 graduate of the university.

“Sandy pursued social work because she saw people in need growing up in New York City and wanted to help them, and because of her mother Harriet, who, as a social worker in New York, exemplified the transformational impact one can have on a person's life through this work,” Berman says. "This gift fulfills Sandy's dream of encouraging more students to pursue social work, thereby bringing more social workers into our communities."

Berman, CEO and founder of Iatric Systems, Inc., a healthcare technology company, is devoting $4 million to create the Harriet & Sandra Rosenbaum Scholarship Program, which will provide students pursuing master’s degrees in the School of Social Work tuition and stipends. The support will be awarded based on financial need for students who intend to practice social work after graduation.

Berman also gifted $1 million to start the Harriet & Sandra Rosenbaum Opportunity Fund with the goal of promoting and providing a robust experience to students in the School of Social Work. The fund may be used to hold workshops on new social work approaches, bring in expert speakers, send students to conferences, support students’ field education or expand the school’s job fair, among other initiatives.

“We are so grateful to Mr. Berman for honoring his wife's and his mother-in-law’s social work roots by supporting our students,” says Stephanie Robert, director and professor of the School of Social Work. “The scholarship will enable us to recruit and support students who have the passion and dedication to become social workers during a time when our world needs them the most.” 

Throughout its history at UW-Madison, the School of Social Work has contributed to a better understanding of social problems through research in social policy and the development of social work practice theory. The school offers bachelor’s degrees in social welfare and social work, both full-time and part-time master’s of social work programs and a doctoral program in social welfare. It is consistently ranked among the top 20 social work programs in the country by US News & World Report.