Helping to make WSU 'the best it can be'

Bill and Dorothy Cohen's support includes recent $90,000 gift to RSC 

Bill and Dorothy Cohen in front of the Rhatigan Student Center construction site

Dorothy and Bill Cohen made a quick stop at the Rhatigan Student Center construction site during a recent visit to the WSU campus.

Neither Bill Cohen nor his wife, Dorothy, attended Wichita State, so unlike some alumni they don’t have fond memories of “grabbing and gabbing” — getting a quick lunch and catching up with friends — at the Rhatigan Student Center.

   But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand the importance of the building to Wichita State. When the current renovation and expansion project is completed in 2014, the Rhatigan Student Center will be the largest building on campus, save for Koch Arena. Foot traffic through the building will be tremendous; currently, more than 1.4 million visits occur annually. For many, it is the heart of the WSU campus.

   For all of those reasons, the Cohens considered it important to contribute to the campaign to help offset the $33 million cost of the project. In December, they made a $90,000 gift to support the Shirley Beggs Ballroom, becoming the second-largest donors to that project. And they contributed $20,000 in 2011 to it, too.

   “The Rhatigan Student Center is instrumental to Wichita State University being the best it can be,” Bill Cohen said during a recent visit to the campus. “We are absolutely convinced that if you don’t have a quality educational system, you can’t have a quality democracy. We have basically chosen to advance the cause of scholarship and education for that reason. Wichita State is part of that equation.”

The Cohens think a lot about how important education is to shaping individuals who think independently and have a passion for staying informed.

   “The fear that society has reached its apex in this country and is basically going backwards is something we talk about a lot,” Dorothy said. “That concerns us. The only way we can change that course is to support and improve education. Some of that will necessarily mean improving bricks and mortar, like the Rhatigan Student Center project. Bill and I realize how important infrastructure is to a university. We want to support that effort.”

"Bill and I realize how important infrastructure is to a university. We want to support that effort."

- Dorothy Cohen

   They also were enthusiastic about dedicating their dollars to help build the Shirley Beggs Ballroom.

   “We view this as a way to honor Shirley Beggs,” Dorothy said. “We love Don and Shirley and have treasured their friendship and everything they did for this university.”

   Investing in infrastructure isn’t always the most glamorous way to make a gift, Bill said, especially when it means maintaining or improving existing buildings.

   “But it’s absolutely necessary when the state has backed out of its responsibilities in that area,” he said. “And every dollar that is invested pays off. It has a benefit to society, to the community, to the university and to future generations of students.”

   A native of Wichita, Bill graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science in economics. Former CEO of IMA (Insurance Management Association) Financial Group, he currently serves on its board of directors.   

   Bill and Dorothy have generously supported Wichita State University for more than 20 years, giving to athletics, the Center for Entrepreneurship, chemistry, the Plaza of Heroines, the Marcus Welcome Center and KMUW 89.1. In 2006, they created the Bill and Dorothy Cohen Endowed Scholarship and they recently made a gift to help bring opera singer Samuel Ramey to Wichita State’s College of Fine Arts as a guest artist.

   In addition to his financial support of WSU, Bill supports the university through his involvement with the WSU Foundation. He is a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) where he has served on various committees and he is a past member of the WSU Foundation Board of Directors. In 2007, the WSU Foundation gave Dorothy and Bill Cohen the Fairmount Founders’ Award for Outstanding Service to Wichita State.

circle arrow To make a contribution to the Rhatigan Student Center renovation, contact James Rhatigan, consultant to the WSU Foundation and the WSU Alumni Association, at (316) 978-3846 or at

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Wichita State University Foundation

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