Dec. 2, 2008

Death of professor's son prompts two funds to help students with health/disability challenges

Two endowments at Cornell have recently been established to help students overcome health and disability challenges. They stem from the untimely death of a Cornell alumnus who was the son of Ronald Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell.

Eric Lawrence Ehrenberg '93 was a 19-year-old junior in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences majoring in government and philosophy and was serving as the captain of the Cornell men's volleyball team when he developed a malignant tumor in the pituitary region of his brain during the 1990-91 academic year.

"He spent a year undergoing three brain surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and returned to Cornell after missing a year of school with vision in only half of one eye, with hearing aids in both ears and on complete hormone replacement therapy," his father said. "His return to Cornell was greatly facilitated by the support that he received from Joan Fisher, coordinator of disability services at Cornell, and the newly formed Access Alternatives student group that worked to improve the Cornell community's understanding of the needs of students with disabilities at Cornell.

Eric became the undergraduate chair of Access Alternatives during his senior year and graduated from Cornell magna cum laude in May 1993. He went on to earn a law degree from Georgetown University in 1996, married and became the father of a daughter.

"When he died [this past] August he was an attorney in the Solicitor's Office of the U.S Department of Labor specializing in civil rights and union-management relations issues, and his wife was pregnant; she gave birth to a son in November," Ehrenberg said.

"Despite all of the adversities Eric faced during the last half of his life, including a recurrence of his tumor in 2004, which led to two more brain surgeries and a bout with meningitis that left him with additional disabilities, he maintained an optimistic attitude and an extraordinary sense of humor throughout his life," Ehrenberg said.

To honor Eric, two endowments have been created by his family and friends. The Eric Lawrence Ehrenberg Memorial Prize, which is now fully funded, will be awarded each year to a graduating ILR senior who has overcome serious health problems and has persisted through to graduation.

The second endowment will fund the Eric Lawrence Ehrenberg Memorial Fund in Cornell's Office of Student Disability Services to support the Cornell Union for Disability Awareness, which is a successor toAccess Alternatives. Contributions to this fund can be made to Cornell University -- Eric Ehrenberg Memorial Fund, c/o Darrlyn O'Connell, ILR-Cornell University, 385 Ives Hall East, Ithaca, NY 14853-3901.