By Matt Watson
When Brittney Kocman lost her mother before starting high school, she discovered running worked as a means of therapy, helping her to move forward, one step at a time, one day at a time. Now that she’s a Roadrunner, running is moving her toward a degree and a future she says wouldn’t be possible without a scholarship.
Kocman, a member of the women’s cross country and track teams who plans to go to graduate school for biomedical engineering, is one of the first four student-athletes at Metropolitan State University of Denver who will benefit in the years to come from the newly established Molly and Rob Cohen Athletic Pacesetter Scholarship Program.
“Playing college soccer was always a dream of mine,” said Javier Arellano, a sophomore broadcasting major and new Cohen-Jordan scholar, jointly named in honor of former MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan. “I’m a first-generation college student. It was important to continue academically; my parents didn’t get the chance to do that.
The Cohen family announced the gift from the Rob and Molly Cohen Family Foundation on Friday at the Regency Athletic Complex – itself the product of a public-private partnership that exposes Denver youth to higher education through athletics. The effort supports student-athletes, and by extension all MSU Denver students, by easing the financial burden of Roadrunners who spend several hours a week training, practicing and competing in addition to their studies.
“First and foremost, our students are here to get an education,” said Anthony Grant, Ph.D., director of athletics at MSU Denver. “When you’re able to assist a student-athlete from a financial perspective, that really takes a lot of the pressure off, so they can focus on achieving at a high level both in the classroom and in competition.”
Robert Cohen, chairman and CEO of The IMA Financial Group, Inc., has supported MSU Denver for close to three decades, first as a member of the Foundation Board and more recently on the Board of Trustees, including five years as chair. Cohen played a key role in the University’s name change, creation of master’s programs and the non-resident tuition rate that led to the ASSET bill in 2013.
“Our family feels so strongly about the positive impact of this University on the urban Denver community,” Cohen said. “We feel there’s no better way to continue that tradition than to invest in the success of some of the school’s most visible, hardest-working students.”
The family’s gift starts with student-athlete scholarships and will later provide funds for facilities and the general student body.
The Regency Athletic Complex’s 23,000 square-foot athletic center, which serves more than 200 student-athletes and 16,000 community members through community partnerships, was named the Cohen Center for Athletics on Friday in honor of the family’s continuing contributions to the University and the Denver community.
Former MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan and former athletic director Joan McDermott, who both broke ground on the complex along with Cohen in 2013, were on hand to celebrate the Cohens and extol the long-term benefits of the endowment.
“What’s really important about it is that while this is a gift that’s going to athletics, it has a component in it that’s all about academics,” said Jordan. “This is the kind of gift that not only changes lives – it changes the University.”
“Many of these students wouldn’t have an opportunity to compete in college athletics because they couldn’t afford it, so this really gives them the opportunity to not only be great students and great student-athletes, but it opens up the door for them to give back to the community,” said McDermott.
The Cohen scholarship fund contributes to an area of opportunity at MSU Denver, which currently offers just 65 percent of the NCAA maximum for athletic scholarships to students.
“It’s not just athletes that benefit from the Cohens’ gift, it’s our entire community. Through these scholarships and facilities, we’re providing a path for all students to transform their own lives, and the lives of those around them,” said MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “That’s why this gift is so important, because it allows us to meet the will to succeed with the resources and scope to sustain it.”
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