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GERSON, ELEANOR

ELEANOR R. (ROSENFELD) GERSON (July 6, 1915-October 20, 2000) was a dedicated Cleveland educator and philanthropist. She was born in New York City to Edward Lazarus Rosenfeld and Bertha Rosenfeld and moved to Cleveland when she was ten years old. After graduation from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Gerson attended Smith College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1937. Following her tenure at Smith, she enrolled at Radcliffe College in the graduate studies program in History, where she spent two years before coming back to Cleveland in 1938 to marry Benjamin S. Gerson, an attorney. She and her husband had three daughters, Jill (Gerson) Parker, Margaret (Gerson) Margolis, and Judith Gerson, and one son, Thomas Edward Gerson.

After returning to academia to earn two degrees from Case Western Reserve University, a Master of Arts degree in American Studies in 1961, and a Master's of Science in Social Administration in 1965, Gerson's career and volunteer efforts were devoted to education. Gerson served as a trustee and chairperson of The School on Magnolia, an alternative school for students with difficulties learning in conventional institutions. Her commitment to the school's mission led the board and administrators to change the name of the school to The Eleanor Gerson School in 1985 (in 2004 it operated with the support of Applewood Centers, Inc.). Gerson also served as the first executive director and, in later years, as a board member for the Cleveland Scholarship Program. Along with her work in education, Gerson supported and served on the boards of many organizations connected to Cleveland's Jewish community.

Gerson was active in philanthropy in Northeast Ohio and supported advocacy programs for women and children through a variety of foundations, including the Benjamin S. Gerson Family Foundation (established in 1973 and named after her husband, who died in 1972), the Eleanor Gerson Supporting Fund, the Eleanor Gerson Philanthropic Fund, and the Gerson-Margolis Foundation, which was renamed The Ellie Fund in 2001 following Gerson's death. In 1992 Gerson was awarded the women's community foundation "Creative Philanthropy Award." She died in October 2000 at the age of 85.


The Gerson Family Records, WRHS.