Ronnie Isenberg, who was named an honorary alumna of UMass Amherst in 2014, died at age 91 on September 25 at her home on Martha’s Vineyard. She will be remembered along with her late husband Gene Isenberg ’50, ’00H for their longstanding support of their namesake school, which gained its moniker in 1997 after the couple made the largest donation of its kind from an individual in the history of UMass Amherst.
Ronnie and Gene were high school sweethearts in Chelsea, Mass., and through their 61-year marriage (Gene passed away in 2014), they lived in New Jersey, London, Bangkok, New York, Martha’s Vineyard, and Palm Beach, where they settled in 1982.
Ronnie attended Simmons College in Boston and graduated from Salem State College with a degree in education; she taught primary school in New Jersey early in her career and supported educational causes throughout her life with financial resources and as a volunteer. The Isenbergs were instrumental in the founding and support of the Parkside School in New York City, which serves children with special needs—in the school’s first year (1986), Ronnie provided bookcases, air conditioners, desks, and a copy machine along with advocacy and financial support.
In the mid-1990s, Ronnie and Gene created the Isenberg Awards for outstanding graduate students at Isenberg and the colleges of science and engineering. More than 100 students who combined management with science and engineering have received the $10,000 awards. In 2006, the Isenbergs created a second set of annual scholarships for juniors with status in both Isenberg and the Commonwealth Honors College. They also established endowed chairs in Isenberg, the College of Natural Sciences, and the College of Engineering.
Ronnie is survived by her daughters Lynda Isenberg (Jim Dare) and Diane Isenberg (David Freeman) and three grandchildren. The family included the Women of Isenberg Conference among the organizations suggested as recipients of memorial donations in her honor.