Kohn gift establishes two new social policy professorships at the Ford School

September 17, 2020

The Karl and Martha Kohn Professorship of Social Policy will advance societal equity and inclusion in the United States. The Arlene Susan Kohn Professorship of Social Policy will address the rights of the disabled in the United States.

With a $5 million gift from Harold and Carol Kohn and the Kohn Charitable Trust, the University of Michigan will establish two new professorships at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Each professorship will support a leading faculty member to establish innovative and vigorous programs through scholarship and applied policy engagement to address structural inequalities and improve social policy.

Karl and Martha Kohn
Karl and Martha Kohn

“I am grateful for Hal and Carol Kohn’s generous gift to the Ford School in support of research and action that address social and structural injustices,” said Michael S. Barr, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “Their philanthropy is deeply meaningful, honoring the memories and ideals of their family members to strengthen social policy that is inclusive for all.” 

One professorship will honor Harold’s parents, Karl and Martha Kohn, whose lives were irrevocably affected by the rise of Germany’s National Socialist Party policies in the 1930s and 1940s. Karl is described by his son as a man of extraordinary courage and a bold risk-taker; Martha’s moral compass never wavered. Funds will be used to support a faculty member whose efforts “advance equity and inclusion policies for all U.S. residents,” said Carol and Harold Kohn.

Arlene Susan Kohn
Arlene Susan Kohn

The second professorship honors Harold’s twin sister, Arlene Susan Kohn. Arlene, born with Down syndrome, passed away in 2016. Harold said she had a strong voice and could “powerfully redirect our family to what was real and what was important.” With their gift, the Kohns seek to “add her voice to the national dialogue on the rights of the disabled and to support their voices and accomplishments.” They added, “We believe that these rights are essential to keeping the national fabric whole and vibrant.”

“We know of no better home for these professorships than the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy,” said Harold Kohn, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from U-M in 1966. “The University of Michigan, a public university, has stood as a beacon for the personal freedoms that define this country. It has, with dignity and respect, welcomed students and faculty of all backgrounds. It has encouraged debate of different opinions and ideas. It has supported and enabled constructive changes in our society.”

The Kohn Charitable Trust also endows the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professorship in Social Policy and Social Justice, named in honor of Harold’s grandparents who perished in the holocaust. That professorship is currently held by Professor H. Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions and associate dean of research and policy engagement at the Ford School. 

Having the three professorships at the Ford School is very special for the Kohn family. Harold Kohn said, “Uniting the names of my grandparents with my parents and my sister in the common purpose to benefit society is simply extraordinary." 

The Kohn’s new gift builds on the Ford School’s strengths, faculty expertise, and number one ranking in social policy. 

Read the biographies of Karl and Martha Kohn and Arlene Susan Kohn.

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