Elmhurst University has renamed a prominent campus building to honor businesswoman and philanthropist Jean Koplin, who, with her husband, business leader and University trustee Alfred Koplin, have been supporters of Elmhurst for more than 40 years.
During a dedication ceremony on June 11 that was attended by members of the Koplin family and University trustees, the building formerly known as Circle Hall was renamed Jean Koplin Memorial Hall. Jean Koplin passed away on Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 97.
“Throughout their lives, Al and Jean have contributed to causes they believe in,” Elmhurst University President Troy D. VanAken said during the ceremony. “Their years of generosity and service, and the invaluable impact they have had on our campus community, bring us here today. We’re thrilled to be able to show our appreciation by celebrating Jean and her inspiring life.”
Earlier this year, Elmhurst U. received a record-setting philanthropic gift from Alfred Koplin, who has served as a University trustee since 1981. His gift represents the largest made by a living donor in the University’s history, and was the latest of at least 50 significant gifts the Koplins have made to Elmhurst over the years.
Jean Koplin Memorial Hall is home to Elmhurst University’s Department of Education, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy, and the Office of Admission.
President VanAken said that while the dedication of Jean Koplin Memorial Hall symbolizes the Koplins’ enduring legacy, their impact extends far beyond one building. Over the years, their gifts to Elmhurst have supported faculty endeavors, student scholarships and curriculum development.
“Go anywhere on campus and you’ll see programs and people who have benefited, including our graduate programs, the nursing program, undergraduate research programs across academic disciplines, and financial scholarships that enabled students to stay here and succeed,” he said.
Brenda Gorman, chair of the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, added that beneficiaries of the Koplins’ generosity reach beyond the campus and continue to grow. In her program alone, she noted, funding for new equipment, technology and student scholarships means more Elmhurst students are better equipped to help their clients, which in turn benefits not only their clients but also their families.
“Thank you for serving our community and the broader community we serve,” Gorman said.
Before a ribbon-cutting to make the dedication official, the Koplins’ daughter, Caroline Palmer, spoke on behalf of the family about what it all means to them.
“Jean was truly the smartest person I ever met, and also the strongest,” she said, describing how her mother educated herself by reading voraciously, and “went from being a latchkey kid” during the Great Depression “to a world traveler and highly successful businesswoman.”
“How gratifying it is to see her name so prominently displayed on a university building, since she always wanted to attend college but was never able to afford it,” Palmer said.
About her father, she said, “Education is something my father has always so strongly believed in and worked so hard to promote throughout his life.
“Memorializing my mother’s name on this beautiful building is my father’s way of giving tribute to his soulmate at a place that means so very much to him and to our family.”