The Karson Family Scholarship Fund - In Memory of Brett, Bill and Thelma Karson

The Karson Family Scholarship is given every year to a Jewish student leader in their first year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The fund was established in memory of the beloved Brett, Bill and Thelma, University of Illinois alumni and loving parents and grandparents.

William G. Karson

​William G. Karson (Bill) was a Graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana in 1948. A member of Sigma Alpha Mu. He was an architecture major and went on to own his own business W.G.Karson and Associates in Northbrook, IL. He was a leader in his field of Architecture and his work took him as far away as Spain. His work can be seen throughout the Chicagoland area up and down Lake Shore Drive. He was an active member at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL. He married his college sweetheart Emelyn (Emmie) Brodsky and together they had 3 children. He was an upstanding member of the community, loved by all who knew him and his leadership endeavors became a foundation that his children grew to appreciate and followed in.

​Brett D. Karson

​Brett D. Karson (son) was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Bachelor of Environmental Design, 1973 and University of Oklahoma Master of Architecture, 1975. Brett was a leader in his community, a member of the 4th of July Association,Village of Northbrook Architectural Control Commission - Chairman, Village of Northbrook Plan Commission, Village of Golf Building Commissioner, Boy Scout Scoutmaster Troop 162, Silver Beaver Recipient. Member of Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society, Alpha Rho Chi Gold Medal Winner - University of Oklahoma. 
He loved the outdoors and traveled extensively throughout his life. He believed that community was important and involved himself in every aspect that he could. His love of scouting and teaching young men how to become leaders was a driving factor in his life. He helped many young men achieve the rank of Eagle scout. His ability to encourage and mentor young minds is present with his own children. His youngest daughter Dakota has gone on to emulate his life work by becoming herself an active member of the community, president of Hillel. While still maintaining her dedication to excellence in school and dedication to community activities at home. 

Thelma Kempner Karson

Thelma Kempner Karson was a first generation born American, the daughter of two Eastern European immigrants who left behind the Old World for the promise of a better life.  Her Father was a no-nonsense businessman who instilled in his daughters the need to become independent, educated women. Thelma excelled in her studies and attended the University of Illinois where she was a student in the Education Department and became a certified teacher. Thelma worked in the Chicago School System until she retired in 2001.
After her four children left for college, Thelma entered the most interesting time of her life. She began belly dancing, scuba diving, fencing, spelunking, skydiving, biking and then traveling to the farthest reaches of the earth.  She saw every play, art exhibit and cultural event Chicago had to offer. Thelma described herself as a world traveler.  She said, when she turned 65 that Europe was for old people.  Unfortunately, she saw so little of the continent when she died two years later.  She put traveling to Europe on the back burner because she was too busy climbing Machu Picho, traveling to Indonesia to see aboriginal people, going to India, Katmandu, Thailand and the list goes on. The University of Illinois provided Thelma, her daughter and grandson wonderful opportunities in life and her family hopes that the Karson Scholarship is as appreciative as they were to attend this fine institution and then give back to the next generation.

The Margie K. and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life

503 E. John St. Champaign, IL 61820

Tel 217-344-1328

Hours 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

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