When Olga Gutman was just 14 years old and living in Minsk in the former Soviet Union, she wanted to become a lawyer, but was told by her parents that it wouldn't be possible. "They said I had an obviously Jewish last name and I would never be accepted into the law department in the university there," she recalled.
Today, against all odds, Gutman is a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City where she specializes in hedge funds, private equity funds and other investment management matters. Because of the chances that Yeshiva University gave her and some of her friends from the former Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago, many of them recently decided to return the favor.
"I came here on a student visa in 1990 at first to attend a Lubavitch high school in Crown Heights," she said. "And when it was time to decide on college, Yeshiva offered me a very good scholarship that covered almost all of my costs." Olga graduated from Stern College for Women in 1994 magna cum laude, received the Wall Street Journal Award for Excellence in Economics and went on to get a JD degree and an LLM from Cornell Law School.
"I had always thought that there would come a point where I would help Yeshiva because I was so thankful for the opportunity it gave me," she said. "After being approached by the University last year about ways to reconnect, I said, I am glad you called, because I've been thinking about doing something." Later, at a reunion meeting in the spring of 2008 that she hosted for her friends who had attended YU with her, and who were all members of the Russian Club, they decided to create a scholarship that would support a student attending YU in 2009 who came from the former Soviet Union. "I received my scholarship from YU as a foreign student as well," said Alina Minkin, one of those classmates. "Now it seems like the right time to pay it back. I hope those who get it today will pass this sponsorship to the next generation of foreign students when their time comes."