Philanthropist Norman Radow and his financial advisor Michael Merlin recently sat down to discuss Radow’s commitment to Kennesaw State University (KSU).

Norman Radow’s first contact with KSU happened 24 years ago when he learned that the university was denied a permit to build student dormitories. “KSU was just a small commuter college then, but with my experience in real estate, I decided to write to the University and offer some suggestions for getting approval. The president invited me for lunch and put me in charge of the project. Over the next decade, I was able to help KSU add about $600M in real estate to the campus and nearly double it in size.” 

In the process, Norman Radow fell in love with KSU and went on to make a series of philanthropic investments in the college that have been transformative. KSU has gone from 5,000 full-time students and 6,000 part-time, non-traditional students to 43,000 students–and the Radow/KSU relationship continues to grow and thrive.

The Radow family’s first named gift established the Norman Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences at KSU. Later, Norman’s wife, Lindy, created a scholarship that allows students to come and live on campus full-time, participate in the honors college, and not have to work extra jobs. More recently, the family endowed the Radow Institute for Social Equity, helping the college expand services to support diversity, inclusion, and equity on campus.

“It’s been a remarkable relationship and has given me far more than KSU has received,” Radow says. But he’s quick to say that his impact is all about partnership. Radow credits his philanthropic advisor, Michael Merlin, Founder of Merlin Wealth Management at Rockefeller Capital Management, with teaching him how to give effectively and to engage the whole family. Merlin is equally complimentary about working with the Radows. “Clients give for many reasons, but it’s always best when there’s real intent. Norman and his family have a passion for this campus. That made it easy to help them design a philanthropic mission statement defining what is meaningful to them.”

Atlanta Jewish Foundation has played a major role, too. “Michael advised us to set up a donor-advised fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation,” Norman explains. “They helped us structure our gift correctly. As they got to know our philanthropic vision, the Foundation came to us and others in the community, asking us to pool our resources to do some really important things in the community. When you have investment advisors who believe in your family, love your family, and become part of your family, they can really help you have impact”.

Kennesaw State has also been a vital partner. Dr. Katie Kaukinen, Dean of the Radow College of Humanities & Social Sciences, says the Radow gift was a game changer for KSU. “The Radows’ generosity has brought weight to KSU; it has elevated humanities and social sciences to a new level of respect from our colleagues and students,” she says. “Having advisors from outside of higher education helps us shape the best educational programming and attract other funders,” Kaukinen said.

“When you give philanthropically, you are changing lives and organizations. That’s permanent; that’s a legacy! I wanted to pass down the idea of giving to my children and grandchildren. I brought them into the conversation and made them part of the collaboration so they would “own” the gift to KSU and want to continue it long after I’m gone. I am confident that they will.”