Norris University Center’s East Lawn is poised for a major renovation thanks to the generosity of Northwestern Trustee Frank Cohen ’95 and Julie Cohen and Northwestern parents Ken and Jana Kahn. The East Lawn will be renamed in recognition of the Cohen family, and the main plaza and pavilion will be named in honor of the Kahn family. Architecture firm SmithGroup has already begun the design phase of the project, which is scheduled for completion in summer 2024.
The East Lawn — an open field adjacent to Norris University Center, with stunning views of nearby Lake Michigan — is a prime location for student, faculty, staff and community interaction and collaboration on the Evanston campus. Early plans include the plaza and pavilion, which will accommodate events and seasonal activities; an outdoor restaurant and space for food vendors led by Compass Group, Northwestern’s food service partner; movable tables, chairs and umbrellas; a game terrace; and a lounge overlooking the lagoon.
“With this exciting transformation, the new space will be the perfect place for our Northwestern community to connect, engage, relax and recharge,” says Jeremy Schenk, Northwestern’s associate vice president for operations and services. “We are excited to partner with current students in the project’s development, as we want to design both space and programs that work for them.”
Following the conclusion of schematic design and design development phases, a one-year construction timeline is planned to begin in summer 2023.
“I spent considerable time at Norris University Center as an undergraduate and recognize the importance of creating open space for the community to collaborate, study or just have fun and relax,” says Frank Cohen, who is global head of Core+ Real Estate at Blackstone and chairman and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Investment Trust.
An active Northwestern alum and volunteer, Cohen received his bachelor’s degree from the Honors Program in the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences Program with a double major in political science from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He received a Northwestern Alumni Association Service Award in 2014. A member of the Board of Trustees, he also serves on the Northwestern University Leadership Council New York Regional Board and the Weinberg College Board of Visitors and chairs the Kellogg School of Management’s Real Estate Advisory Council. Julie Cohen received her bachelor of arts from Ohio State University. The Cohens reside in Short Hills, N.J., with their three children.
The Cohens’ past philanthropy to Northwestern includes support for Weinberg College, the Division of Student Affairs, Northwestern Athletics and Recreation, and Kellogg. The couple, who have given annually for the last 25 years, also are members of NU Loyal, the giving society recognizing donors who support the University every year.
“We are grateful for the wonderful education our daughter is receiving, and we want to support the University’s efforts to provide additional venues for students to gather,” Ken and Jana Kahn say.
The Kahns are owners of LRP Media Group, which provides training and compliance services for human resources professionals in federal agencies and K–12 educators. Ken, the organization’s CEO, holds a bachelor of arts from Cornell University and a law degree from Harvard University. Jana, who serves as chief marketing officer, has a bachelor’s in human resources and management from Temple University.
The Kahns are members of NU Loyal and active supporters of Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) and Student Affairs. The parents of Alexandra Kahn ’25, a current SESP student, live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.