Unassuming Alumna Leaves College a Major — and Surprising — Gift

Apr. 18, 2011

She was an ordinary woman who lived an ordinary life — graduating from college, working in an office where she met her future husband, and living a full life in Manhattan. So it was fitting that, in the most ordinary of ways, the gift she bestowed on Brooklyn College arrived in a quiet, unassuming way. On April 4, a day like any other, Stephanie Ehrlich, deputy director of development at the Brooklyn College Foundation, opened an envelope and found a check for $1,324,000 from the estate of Yolanda Jacobs, '35.

Usually, the foundation is told ahead of time about such a large endowment. But in this case, Ehrlich notes that Jacobs "had never given, and we were never notified that she had passed. We only found out when we received the envelope from an attorney's office with a check and a copy of the will."

The unheralded arrival seems in line with Jacobs' intentions for her bequest. Her executor and best friend, Eleazer Hirmes, said Yolanda, whom he described as a "sweet and kind person who enjoyed life and liked to laugh," didn't want her money to be used to name a building. Instead, she preferred a more direct and impactful method of supporting students — a scholarship.

The Iris G. Giannotta and Yolanda Jacobs Scholarship will honor both Yolanda and her sister Iris, who also attended the college. Their transcripts, while not naming a major, noted they both took classes in English and education. After graduation, Yolanda worked at Imperial Linens, a linen manufacturing company, where she was in charge of sales at the Foreign Department. She married Edwin Jacobs, an officer at Imperial Linens, but the couple did not have children. After Edwin passed away in 1980, Iris moved in with Yolanda.

As stipulated in her will, Yolanda's gift will "support needy and/or deserving students." The gift establishes an endowed scholarship fund that will provide about $52,000 a year in scholarship money for students, starting in the 2012 academic year. In addition, more monies are expected to come from the estate over time to enhance the endowment.

Andrew Sillen, executive director of the Foundation, says, "Although we were saddened to hear of Ms. Jacob's passing, it is inspiring when we learn of alumni who remember the value of their Brooklyn College education. In supporting today's students, Ms. Jacobs made tangible President Franklin Roosevelt's invocation when he laid the cornerstone of our campus, that Brooklyn College may 'live through the generations.' We are deeply grateful."


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