Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Remembering a Longtime Brandeis National Committee Leader

April 24, 2017

Thanks to a generous gift to Brandeis University from Cherie and Gary Aviv, longtime Brandeis National Committee (BNC) leader Theresa Adler, G’13, Cherie’s stepmother, will forever be associated with supporting students at the institution that she so loved.

In March, the Avivs established the Theresa J. and Lt. Col. George Adler Endowed Scholarship Fund in recognition of the impact the woman known to all as “Terry” had on her family, her community and BNC.

Adler, long an active member of BNC’s Central Westchester Chapter, died on Jan. 9 at the age of 86, leaving a legacy of inner strength, positive spirit and giving that inspired all of the people around her.

“She was vivacious, passionate and caring,” says Aviv, who herself was a member of BNC’s Atlanta Chapter. “She made friends wherever she went. No one was too old or too young to be her friend.”

Although Adler was involved in a number of community organizations, BNC was her top philanthropic priority and an important part of her life for many years. She served in a variety of chapter leadership roles, even agreeing to a term as president at the age of 85. She gladly opened her home for BNC business, from hosting meetings to coordinating mailings.

“I chose Brandeis for this gift because I knew how much the BNC mission of supporting the University meant to her. She loved telling members about the impact of their gifts,” Aviv says. “She felt so good about the work she was doing on behalf of Brandeis. My father was also very supportive of her volunteer work with BNC, and it allowed her to take on many roles.”

An elementary school teacher for many years, Adler had an enduring belief in Brandeis’ foundational mission of offering an education to deserving young people, regardless of their financial situations. Her connection to the University grew even more when Zane Relethford ’13, one of her 10 grandchildren, joined the Brandeis family as a student in the fall of 2009. Adler attended his graduation. Gary Aviv’s brother, Joseph, graduated from Brandeis in 1971.

“After having done so much for Brandeis, it was a proud moment to see her grandchild graduate,” Aviv says. “Her relationship with Brandeis had come full circle.”

Adler came into Aviv’s life 50 years ago, when her father married the recent widow. Adler worked tirelessly to raise three children following the death of her first husband. From the onset of the marriage, Adler welcomed Aviv and her siblings with her warm and engaging style. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Adler began her battle with breast cancer.

“I was in awe and struck by her strength to manage the recent death of a spouse and then face cancer,” Aviv says. “Some people would worry all the time, but she adopted the perspective that she was just going to live her life and have a positive outlook. She believed in seizing life while you can every day.”

Adler and Aviv’s father, a career military man who served in the Army during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, worked diligently to blend their families into one loving, connected group. The extended family gathered annually in the Catskills to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“I think Terry’s greatest gift was bringing people together and creating connections,” Aviv says. “She and my father operated as a team to create lasting family memories for all of us.”

Since Adler’s passing, Aviv often finds herself thinking of her stepmother. “She was an inspiration to me and many other people,” she says. “We all miss her very much.”

Aviv adds, “Creating this endowed scholarship allowed me and my husband to pass on Terry’s passion for life, my father’s commitment to excellence and their support for education through a gift to a worthy student year after year.”

To make a gift in support of the Theresa J. and Lt. Col. George Adler Endowed Scholarship Fund, visit the BNC website. Enter your gift amount on the “Other” line in the Selected Designations section, then type in “Adler Fund” in the text box below. If you wish to designate your donation as a tribute gift, click on the arrow to the right of the shaded bar that reads “Make this an honorary or memorial gift.” You can send a message to the honoree or the individual's family.