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Published: Monday, 10/4/2004

Terminally ill scholar wants to help others

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bernie Rabin, a retired Bowling Green State University professor with leukemia, receives a blood transfusion in Wood County Hospital. His daughter, Cheryl Rabin Plotkin, left, and his wife, Anne, react emotionally as he discusses his prognosis. Bernie Rabin, a retired Bowling Green State University professor with leukemia, receives a blood transfusion in Wood County Hospital. His daughter, Cheryl Rabin Plotkin, left, and his wife, Anne, react emotionally as he discusses his prognosis.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

BOWLING GREEN - Bernie Rabin is dying.

Diagnosed with leukemia in July, the retired Bowling Green State University professor and clinical psychologist has struggled to come to terms with his prognosis. He went home and tried to die, which didn't work. Then he decided to go on living by helping the kind of college student he once was.

It was 1952 and Mr. Rabin had no family financial support when he finished his doctorate at Columbia University Teachers College. He'd secured a job in New Hampshire but didn't have a dime to move himself, his wife, and young daughter.

"I found an office at the university. I don't even remember how I found it, but with very little red tape and hardly any questions, they gave me a check at 1 percent interest," Mr. Rabin, now 87, recalled. "They said to pay it back when you can."

To that same end, Mr. Rabin has established the Rabin Helping Hand Fund at BGSU, where he taught psychology from 1955 to 1982. He is launching a letter-writing campaign, asking for contributions from friends, colleagues, members of the Bowling Green Country Club where until this summer he golfed just about every morning, and even fellow Marines he served with in World War II.

He hopes to raise at least $25,000 so the fund can be a perpetual source of aid for students, with only the interest from the fund being spent each year.

Though not all the details have been worked out, Mr. Rabin said both undergraduate and graduate students would be eligible for quick cash to pay for an emergency car repair or dental bill or similar expense. To qualify, they would have to be students without family financial support and U.S. citizens - a requirement Mr. Rabin, as a veteran, preferred.

"We're trying to work out a minimum of red tape because we want to believe that people serious enough to work their way through school are honest. I want to believe that, based on my own experience," said Mr. Rabin, who paid back his own $500 loan to Columbia once he was able.

Sharon Hanna, major gift officer for BGSU's office of development, said the university has somewhat similar emergency funds at its Firelands Campus near Huron and at the main campus for international students, but nothing for other students in Bowling Green.

"I think what really is touching about this story is this is a man who remembers at this time in his life with great sentiment an experience that really was seminal, that really was important to him, and he wants to make that kind of help available to other students," Ms. Hanna said.

For Mr. Rabin, the project has given him a purpose he didn't have when he first received his terminal diagnosis. He is now getting home Hospice care and weekly blood transfusions.

"When I decided I wasn't going to die, which took a long time, I tried to shift my thinking," he said. "This thing we're doing is occupying a lot of our time, and it makes me feel good partly because I have something to concentrate on that might do someone some good, and partly because it feels good to know I might be able to help some people."

Mr. Rabin's daughter, Cheryl Rabin Plotkin, who came from Florida to stay with her father and mother, Anne, during her father's illness, said she would like to think his spirit will live on through the fund he's establishing as his dying wish.

"It's been great for all of us," she said. "It's given us a diversion."

Contributions to the Rabin Helping Hand Fund may be sent to the BGSU Foundation Inc., c/o Sharon Hanna, BGSU, Bowling Green, OH, 43403.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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