When asked what his experience was like when he attended Brooklyn College, venture capital executive Irwin Federman ’56 admits that working 30 to 40 hours a week while going to school did not leave him much room to think about anything else. He graduated with a bachelor of science in economics, and became a CPA after winning the Forbes Gold Medal, given to those who attain the highest grade on the California CPA exam. Federman worked in public accounting, then as chief financial officer for three successive Silicon Valley startups, including a semiconductor company, Monolithic Memories, where he was CEO. During his 10-year tenure there, he served two terms as chair of the US Semiconductor Industry Association. In 1990, he became a general partner of U.S. Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital investment firm, and senior adviser there in 2015.
“The motive for the gift was thank you, Brooklyn College. Thank you for what you’ve done for me, here’s a little something that I can do for you.”
“When it came to my college experience, everything registered retrospectively for me,” says Federman. “I realized afterward that if I hadn’t had that opportunity of going to a fine school tuition-free, there was no way I could have afforded it by myself, and my family couldn’t have paid for it. I’ve had a growing appreciation of my education over the years. As I’ve prospered and gotten lucky, the impact of Brooklyn College has become very clear.”
It is this same chance at higher education that Federman, a member of the Brooklyn College Foundation Board of Trustees, and his wife Concepción would like to give to others “who are trying to break out of an economic bind not of their doing,” he says. In 2005, Federman endowed a fund in early childhood education, the Sheila Federman ’58 Memorial Scholarship, in honor of his late wife, who had been a teacher. Concepcion, recognizing the importance of the college to so many generations of people, urged him to do more. Her encouragement led to a $500,000 gift for the college to use the best way it could to accomplish its most urgent priorities.
“The motive for the gift was thank you, Brooklyn College. Thank you for what you’ve done for me, here’s a little something that I can do for you,” says Federman.
The Federmans were delighted to hear that the gift would be used in three crucial areas—for grants to help students in financial need to complete their degrees, for the School of Education, and to provide seed funding for a new Immigrant Student Success Office.
“Brooklyn College demographics have changed a lot since I was a student,” says Federman. “However, similar to today’s student body, most of us were the children of immigrants, and almost all of us were economically constrained. Although 60-odd years have passed, the opportunities provided by this terrific school are remarkably the same.”