The Ackermans' Love of Learning Lives on in Bequest to UConn

By Grace Merritt

Ralph and Eileen Ackerman

Married for 68 years, the Ackermans had a love of learning. Their gift will impact students for years to come.

An Ohio couple with a lifelong commitment to education has given $558,000 to UConn to establish permanent scholarships for music and psychology students.

"The Ackermans' generosity will have a lasting impact at UConn," says Joshua R. Newton, president and CEO of the UConn Foundation. "Their love of education and generous spirit will help generations of students."

This fall, the Ackerman scholarship will go to the following graduate students: Shanza Hussain, of Southington, Conn.; Asfia Qutub, of Newington, Conn.; Richard Levy, of Vernon, Conn.; and Shannon Holder, of Hartford, Conn.

Ralph Ackerman '60 PhD, earned his doctorate at UConn and eventually became a college professor at Edinboro State College in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where he taught until his retirement in 1981. His wife, Eileen (Dotta) Ackerman, an accomplished pianist, was a high school music teacher who gave private piano lessons at home.

The Ackermans both were lifetime students and enjoyed learning about new scientific advances and new teaching techniques. They traveled extensively before and after retirement, visiting every continent but Antarctica.

"They liked to have fun and Ralph liked to joke around. He liked people in general, but his students were special," says Mark A. Forni, a relative.

Ralph was raised in the Bronx and enlisted in the Army during WWII. He served in the Western Pacific on the island of Le Shima. The Army gave him the opportunity to go to college, so Ralph went on to earn his undergraduate and master's degrees at Ohio University. It was there that he met and later married Eileen Dotta. She was from a farming community in Monroe County, Ohio, and was studying to earn a degree in music education.

Ralph initially taught at several high schools, including one in Glastonbury, Connecticut, then earned his doctorate at UConn. He then joined the staff of Edinboro State College as a professor of Psychology and Counseling. When he retired in 1980, he was chairman of the Division of Behavioral Sciences.

"Ralph credited finding Eileen with all of his success," Forni says. "Eileen encouraged him to study and further his education. He was amazed at his ability."

Upon retiring, the Ackermans moved to Florida to escape the cold northern winters and landed in Cape Coral, where they enjoyed another one of their passions: Golf. They were known to play 36 holes of golf every day but Sunday.

Their next move was to Gulf Coast Village, where they shared their lives until Eileen passed away in March 2013. Ralph passed away two years later at age 94. They had been married for 68 years.

A Scholarship Luncheon to honor all Neag School donors is coming up at noon Sept. 21 in the Rome Ballroom on the Storrs campus.

To learn more about leaving a gift to UConn in your will, please contact Gregory Knott at giftplanning@foundation.uconn.edu or (860) 336-1468.