Bonni and Joel Weinstein: Honoring Her Mother by Paying It Forward

Bonni Weinstein’s mother was determined to help her get an education. “My family was old-fashioned, and my father didn’t believe in the idea of higher education for women,” Bonni says. “So my mother went back to work to make sure I got to go to college.”

Bonni not only attended college but went on to earn her master’s degree in education in 1972, specializing in reading and learning disabilities, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education (then called the Evening College). She then devoted her life to learning and helping others to do the same: teaching teenagers with reading disabilities in Maryland, earning a master’s in business administration, running employee training programs in California, and traveling the country as a college recruiter.

After retiring, Bonni decided to follow her mother’s lead. Just as her mother had supported Bonni’s education, she would do the same for others. “My mother was always so proud that I went to Hopkins,” Bonni says. “And I thought it was only fitting to honor her through a scholarship.”

The Michael-Weinstein Scholarship, which Bonni and her husband, Joel, named in honor of Bonni’s mother, Goldie P. Michael, and her brother, Melvin S. Michael, provides financial assistance for undergraduate and graduate students at the School of Education, with a focus on supporting opportunities for women. The Weinsteins established the fund in 1998 with an outright gift. They recently formalized a provision in Bonni’s will to add to the fund through a bequest.

“It’s wonderful,” says Bonni of the scholarship. “The more people I can help the better. I’ve been in a position of not being able to get an education without scholarship money. I know how important it is.”

The scholarship has already helped nearly 30 students complete their degrees—students like Marilyn Ritzau who might otherwise have had to give up on school.

Though she was a successful travel agent, Marilyn had long dreamed of earning her master’s degree and embarking on a career in counseling. Student loans helped Marilyn begin attending the School of Education part time in the fall of 2004. “I walked out of my first class a changed person,” Marilyn says. “I knew this was what I wanted to do.” But with a full-time job and a teenage son who would soon be heading to college himself, completing her required 600-hour field placement seemed impossible.

The Michael-Weinstein Scholarship made all the difference. As the 2006 recipient of the award, Marilyn was able to fully devote herself to helping incarcerated women at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility prepare for life after their release. “Without the scholarship, I don’t know if I would have been able to complete my internship,” says Marilyn. “It helped me to achieve a very important dream without putting a hardship on my family.”

Marilyn received her master’s degree in clinical community counseling in 2007 and subsequently earned credentials as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Nationally Certified Counselor. She now balances a full-time position as a smoking-cessation study coordinator and counselor for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., with a part-time counseling position at Contemporary Therapeutic Services in Germantown, Md.

“These jobs can be demanding,” she says, “but I’m walking into work each day to help people grow and heal—and there’s nothing better than that.”

Bonni and Joel are proud to honor Bonni’s mother and brother by providing students like Marilyn Ritzau with the greatest of gifts: an education. “I’ve had several careers,” notes Bonni, “but this scholarship will be the thing that will continue on after I’m gone.”

Gift vehicles used: Bequest and outright gift

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