Beloved ILRie Remembered
Winners of an award honoring a member of ILR's first freshmen class discuss the impact of a man who led by example.
Jerome “Jerry” Alpern ’49, MBA ’50, whose name is emblematic of ILR School pride, died Friday, leaving a legacy embodied in one of ILR’s most prestigious awards.
A kind and understated man who was a member of the school's first freshmen class in 1945, Alpern inspired loyalty across the ILR community.
Joanne Restivo Jensen ’84, the 2017 winner of the Alpern Award, said, “Each year when I attend the award ceremony, it reminds me what a terrific example Jerry set in giving back to the ILR community and the responsibility we all have to support the efforts of the school.”
Barry Beck ’90, the 2020 Alpern winner, said, "Jerome Alpern truly embodied a passion for the ILR School and its students and helped make the school what it is today. I was incredibly honored to be recognized by the Alpern Award given to alumni for their service to the school. Mr. Alpern's incredibly gracious, warm and engaging style illustrates the spirit of Cornell University and the ILR School and all that we set out to be."
Russell Hernandez ’88, this year’s Alpern Award recipient, said he cherishes the memory of his family meeting Alpern and his family in April at ILR’s Groat and Alpern Celebration in New York City. Alpern attended the event every year, smiling and engaging with every alumni, faculty and staff person he encountered.
“For all of us, he was a rock that we could always rely on and we shall try to honor his spirit of life and joy,” said Alex Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor.
Alpern’s philanthropic spirit is shared by many ILRies.
K. Lisa Yang ’74, who won the Alpern Award in 2014, said “I believe Mr. Alpern would be proud to know that I am moving the needle in the world of neurodiversity employment and piloting equitable medical technology in developing countries, as well as bringing hope and delivering therapeutic solutions to autism and other mental illnesses through translational research in neuroscience and biological engineering.”
Alpern, who worked into his 80s as a financial consultant and business adviser, funded the Alpern Scholarship and the Alpern Prize, awarded to the two graduating ILR seniors with the highest grade point averages.
In a 2020 interview, Alpern said that his passion for ILR was rooted in the way the school wrapped its arms around him when his brother died in 1946.
Daniel Alpern was studying engineering at Cornell when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1942. Shortly after Jerry started at ILR, Daniel slipped as he stepped off a ship to board a small boat, and drowned off the coast of Korea.
Alpern credited ILR faculty and administration with carrying him through the tragic loss.
“At first, I was thinking I would transfer, as the sole surviving son, to be closer to home, but I was encouraged to stay by Professor Morris Neufeld, Don Dietrich and others at the school. So, I owe them a debt. I would not be where I am today without the ILR School. It really is like my family.”