Former professor leaves legacy behind at BGSU

Angela L. Gorter and Angela L. Gorter

As Bernard ‘#34;Bernie’#34; Rabin reminisces about his life, his spirit seems to awaken.

A man who knows he only has a short time to live, Rabin is optimistic about one thing: The legacy he will leave behind.

Rabin, 87, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a retired professor emeritus from the University’#39;s College of Education. Three months ago today, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a terminal condition that attacks the blood and bone marrow in the body.

The diagnosis left him unable to carry on the active lifestyle that he and his wife Anna Florence had maintained since his retirement in 1982.

Rabin was left confined to an ivory over-sized, cushioned chair in his living room, to ponder what his life has meant to him.

He remembered his impoverished childhood, when he left home at 13 to work with nowhere to eat or sleep. He remembered the family of a high school classmate that opened their doors for him to live, though for a small fee. And he remembered his college years, the time in his life where he experienced such generosity, that he has been inspired to do the same for students at Bowling Green.

In response, he decided to create The Rabin Helping Hand Fund, an emergency grant program that allows students who do not have the financial support of their families or athletic scholarship, to receive money for personal expenses.

‘#34;I am painfully aware of what happens to students who have no place to turn, which is the main reason for this fund. I experienced it myself over and over again, and I know what it’#39;s like,’#34; he said.

Rabin specifies that the fund will work for students who are in the most desperate situations.

‘#34;Those that are fully working their way through and have no family support and no place to turn if there were an emergency, like a broken down car or got ill and couldn’#39;t pay rent,’#34; he said.

In 1953, while at Columbia University’#39;s Teacher’#39;s College, Rabin received a job offer in New Hampshire, but didn’#39;t have the money to make the move.

At the time, he and his wife had started a family and had to scramble around for food and to pay health expenses. There was a considerable struggle all the way through his educational career, ‘#34;[It] had been a struggle right from the beginning,’#34; he said.

Through an emergency loan program established by a donor at that university, Rabin was given $500 to go to New Hampshire.

‘#34;If you have no resources, you look and search and you really don’#39;t want to tell anyone that you are destitute,’#34; he said. ‘#34;You run into stone walls everywhere and then you find some place where you’#39;re going to get some help. I can’#39;t tell you the feeling when somebody cares, when nobody has cared very much before.’#34;

Presently, The Helping Hand Fund is in the process of becoming an endowment, said Sharon Hanna, major gift officer in the Office of Development at the University’#39;s Milieti Alumni Center. The minimum amount of money to endow a fund is $25,000.

To meet this amount, the Rabin family has contacted former students, colleagues and friends to contribute.

Unlike other loans that the University offers through the Office of Financial Aid, The Helping Hand Fund does not require a student to pay back monies immediately. Rather, it allows students to pay back the ‘#39;loan’#39; interest free, as soon as they are able.

‘#34;I want it to be a rotating fund and have recipients eventually pay back the money, and if they’#39;d like, pay back more so that other students can have the benefits of the program as well,’#34; daughter Cheryll Rabin Plotkin said.

Starting a fund allows the Rabins to do something for the community, but it also fills the void of productivity that was lost as a result of Bernie’#39;s diagnosis.

Avid skiers, Rabin and his wife have been hitting the slopes for years. In fact, at age 70, Bernie was one of the top-ranked skiers in his age category in Ohio and had begun slalom racing.

‘#34;Physically, you’#39;re not 87,’#34; he said a doctor once told him.

Recalling past ski trips and discussing ones that could be, brings a sadness over Anna Florence.

‘#34;That will be one of the things that will be difficult for my wife. It will be difficult to find someone to go with her,’#34; he said.

After word spread about her father’#39;s condition, Cheryll, who moved into her parents’#39; home after the diagnosis, began to receive letters, cards and emails from people willing to help.

‘#34;I think that it’#39;s real heartwarming that all of these people are coming out of the woodwork it sort of validates a life,’#34; she said.

As a former sports psychologist for the Falcon’#39;s hockey team in 2001-2002, Rabin had made long-lasting friends with the men he helped.

Ryan Wetterberg, a graduated member of the men’#39;s hockey team, had contacted Rabin when he heard the news of his illness. He remembers his ‘#39;coach’#39; as a special man who always made the team smile.

‘#34;I never wanted to miss out on anything he had to say,’#34; he said. ‘#34;One time Bernie came into the locker room and was talking with me and some of the guys. He said that he could hypnotize someone by just shaking their hand. And of course no one believed him. I was sitting down ready to go on the ice and he reaches out and goes to shake my hand. So, I put my arm in the air and shook his hand. He then lets my hand go and I say that I am sorry but it didn’#39;t work. He waits a little while and then tells me to put my arm back down.’#34;

It is these memories that Rabin would like to leave behind. To him, the fund means more than money, it has a purpose of giving back to a community that he calls ‘#39;home.’#39;

‘#34;This has been home. We’#39;ve got nothing but encouragement from everyone. It’#39;s the last thing I can do — this is what makes it important,’#34; he said.

Donations can be made to the BGSU Foundation, Inc. The family requests that you send any gift to BGSU Foundation, Inc., c/o Sharon Hanna, BGSU, Bowling Green, OH 43403. Or visit