Since the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine’s veteran population has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million and counting, yet the country’s ability to support its servicemembers has declined due to the war’s impact on the economy and infrastructure. Two…
Bernard D. and Louise C. Rostker Share Colorful History With the Creation of the IVMF Dissertation Research Fund; Applications Now Open
Bernard D. Rostker G’66, G’70 and Louise C. Rostker G’68 have spent decades impacting the lives of others. Bernie served in the U.S. Army and as a Department of Defense senior executive, and he provided support to other military branches. Louise served as a social worker and special education teacher. Their paths in life were heavily shaped by their time at Syracuse University, which created opportunities for them, often by chance.
Fifty years after they last stepped foot on campus, Bernie and Louise are making a return with a gift to support Ph.D. candidates through the D’Aniello Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF). Through this generous gift, they hope students who are in positions like the ones they were in during their time on campus will benefit from the additional support.
Sometimes Second Is Better Than First
When it came time to write his master’s thesis, Bernie couldn’t get his first topic choice as it was already taken by another student.
“The topic I wanted was public infrastructure, but somebody else got it. So, I ended up with [my second choice] the topic of manpower planning,” Bernie says. “I wrote a master’s thesis on cost-benefit analysis of manpower training. And that’s how I got into the manpower business.”
Meanwhile, Louise was experiencing the full force of winter in Syracuse as she looked to enroll in the master of social work program. “I interviewed during the snowstorm of ’66 and remember walking through snow to the interviewee’s house,” Louise says. While initially unsure of her ability to afford to attend Syracuse University, the National Institute of Mental Health stepped up and awarded Louise a grant that would go on to shape her experience in the field of social work. Louise would ultimately graduate in 1968 while Bernie finished his Ph.D. while posted to the Pentagon.
As if it were destiny, Bernie was drawn into the manpower business through his Ph.D. He says he happened upon a flyer that offered a dissertation fellowship sponsored by the Manpower Administration of the Department of Labor. “They [the Department of Labor] were buying a whole generation of labor economists at the point where just a few dollars made a difference,” says Bernie. The fellowship paid tuition as well as support for attending conferences and travel to do necessary research.
After fulfilling his military commitment, Bernie joined the RAND Corporation as a research economist. He ended up supporting the efforts of the U.S. Air Force while at RAND and then, propelled yet again by his earlier Ph.D. work on manpower planning, was selected by the Carter administration to serve in the Navy secretariat. Eventually, this led to his appointment as the director of the Selective Service System. Later, after a return tour at RAND, Bernie was asked by the Clinton administration to serve as the assistant secretary of the Navy, then undersecretary of the Army, and finally as the undersecretary of defense for personnel. During their careers in and out of government Bernie and Louise worked to improve schooling for military children, provide affordable childcare for Navy and Marine Corps families, expand employment opportunities for military spouses, secure needed medical care for veterans of the Persian Gulf War and champion equal opportunities for all to serve their country in the armed forces.
Establishing the New Fund
After an illustrious career, Bernie began to explore options with Louise on how and where to give back. The pair ultimately reminisced on their time at Syracuse and Bernie recalled his experience in the Ph.D. program. After reaching out to the University they decided to set up a fund through the IVMF with the hope of supporting a Ph.D. candidate, similar to how Bernie received external funding during his Ph.D. program.
“If you look at what I have proposed here, in terms of dissertation support, it’s kind of like the support I got from the Department of Labor,” says Bernie. “So, setting up this fund was with the intent and hope to do something helpful along the lines of what the Department of Labor did for me.”
As part of the Forever Orange campaign, the Bernard D. and Louise C. Rostker IVMF Dissertation Research Fund supports interdisciplinary dissertation research on veteran- and military family-related topics to be conducted by Syracuse University Ph.D. candidates through the IVMF. The fund can be used to accommodate travel costs, software and equipment purchases, research or academic conferences, and fieldwork and data gathering.
“While I’m trained as an economist, the RAND Corporation is famous for having an interdisciplinary approach, more so than any other institution. I didn’t want this [research fund] to be just for economists, I wanted it to be interdisciplinary,” Bernie says. “I would like to see people who produce doctoral quality work receive their degree in whatever discipline supports veterans and military families.”
The fund application is open to doctoral candidates from all Syracuse University schools and colleges and it will support one or more Ph.D. candidate(s) doing dissertation research on veteran- and/or military family-related topics. Interested and qualified candidates can apply online.