Tulane leaders to receive inaugural national Hillel award

As part of Hillel International’s 90th anniversary, two new national awards are being established, and one of them will go to leaders at Tulane University.

The Maimonides Award will be presented to Tulane President Scott Cowen and Executive Vice President for University Relations and Development Yvette Jones. The award was established to honor “a university leader, or leaders, whose dedication to higher education has promoted a deep commitment to Jewish and secular learning and devotion to the community.

“I can think of no finer university leaders to bestow the first Maimonides Award” than Cowen and Jones, said Eric Fingerhut, Hillel International’s president and CEO. “Working together they have elevated Tulane’s undergraduate applications, student quality, fundraising, and research awards to record levels. And, while doing that, they played an instrumental role in helping New Orleans recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.”

In an interview that will be published in the June issue of Southern Jewish Life, Cowen said he is very proud of the Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life, the new Hillel building that was dedicated at Tulane in 2011, and the award is a recognition of Tulane having “the closest and strongest relationship between a university and its Hillel.”

The award will be presented on June 9 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City at Hillel’s annual Renaissance Gala. Hillel is the largest Jewish student organization in the world, with a presence on over 550 campuses.

Also being introduced is the Edgar Bronfman Award, presented to a Hillel professional who has served Hillel with distinction and honor. The initial recipient will be Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, Neubauer Executive Director of the Tufts University Hillel.

The Renaissance Award, Hillel’s highest honor, will go to New York philanthropist and financier Mark Shenkman.

Cowen is retiring as Tulane president this summer after 16 years. He previously was professor and business school dean at Case Western Reserve University. His time at Tulane was marked by the complete evacuation and shutdown following Hurricane Katrina, and rebuilding the university after a being closed for a semester.

As part of the post-Katrina new direction, Tulane became the first and only national research university to make community outreach part of the core curriculum for undergraduates.

Cowen was named by Time Magazine as one of the country’s top 10 college presidents. His book, “The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America” will be released on June 10, the day after the Hillel awards gala.

Jones has been in her current position since 2009, and is currently leading Tulane’s plan for a $1 billion fundraising campaign. As chief advancement officer before that, she oversaw the “Promise and Distinction Campaign for Tulane,” which was interrupted by Katrina and completed in 2008, raising over $700 million and making it the largest university fundraising effort in state history.