Harold Krouse ’59 with his wife Carolyn

Retired IT executive Harold Krouse ’59 recalls how, back in 2001, the passing of a beloved Brooklyn College professor, Walter Cerf, got him thinking about philanthropy and his alma mater. Cerf had left his entire estate to the college. “It planted a seed for what is now called paying it forward,” says Krouse.

After talking with his wife Carolyn about what they’d like to do with their estate, they realized they’d get even greater satisfaction from supporting students right away. “We want to see students move up when it comes to social and financial mobility,” says the former math major. So, they established the Harold M. and Carolyn R. Krouse Scholarship Fund in 2018. It offers scholarships to STEM students enrolled at Brooklyn College.

The majority of Brooklyn College students require some form of financial aid. As recently as the fall 2023 semester, nearly 82 percent received grants for their education. Since its inception, the Krouse Scholarship Fund has helped nearly 250 students pursue degrees in the science, technology, engineering, pre-med, and mathematics fields.

A True Liberal Arts Education

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Harold Krouse attended Samuel J. Tilden High School, where he graduated early after skipping a year in junior high. He planned to be an accountant like his father, who had passed away when Harold was seven, but in his teens, he became interested in engineering. He started at Brooklyn College with a two-year pre-engineering curriculum, switched to City College and took a couple of engineering courses, then decided to re-enroll in Brooklyn College to focus on mathematics.

It was there that Harold thrived. He loved the freedom of taking math alongside the humanities in true liberal arts fashion. He counted as mentors Professor Cerf, who taught philosophy, and the list of professors who taught advanced math. He made friends with classmates, joined a fraternity, and played intramural basketball and touch football. And the tuition for all CUNY schools was free—he did not want to burden his mother with the heavy tuition costs otherwise. Harold shares this kinship with many of today’s Brooklyn College students, who need financial aid to complete their degrees.

A Growing Career and Marriage

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1959, Harold started work at the Center for Programmed Instruction in New York City on a referral from a friend. The company promoted a new way of education—teaching and textbooks using “tiny, baby steps” in presenting the material. Harold wrote two math textbooks using the new method. One summer, he traveled to Africa to two teachers’ conferences: one in Entebbe, Uganda, at a hotel by the shore of Lake Victoria, where, by a happy coincidence, one of his former math teachers, Professor Walter Prenowitz, conducted the conference and asked him to give a talk to the group about his work; and the other in Ibadan, Nigeria, at the university. He was there as part of a team to teach the new techniques to instructors from West African countries.

“That trip to Africa was exciting. It was approximately a year after so many African nations were decolonized and gaining independence. There were teachers from West African nations that had not always been friendly with each other, and here I was 22, a kid, trying to teach and at the same time keep things under control.”

Harold would be in for excitement of a different kind after he returned to New York City. “The first day back at the office,” he says, “I was introduced to Carolyn.”

Carolyn Robert hailed from New England. She was the daughter of a World War II veteran who worked for an insurance company in Hartford. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a degree in English literature, then earned a master’s in teaching from Wesleyan. She taught high school English for a couple of years but decided to move back east to New York City. There, she went to work at the Center for Programmed Instruction as an assistant editor of their quarterly publication.

Carolyn worked for the Center for Programmed Instruction until it was acquired by Columbia University Teachers College. She then worked for the Education Division of Xerox, where she designed curricula for Job Corps centers. When the Krouses’ first child was born she left Xerox to become a full-time mom.

Life and Work Overseas

Meanwhile, Harold became interested in computer science and started work at IBM, where he served as a systems engineer for the rapidly expanding company, helping commercial companies install applications on their new computers. He was given management jobs as IBM grew and was later sent to Tokyo to adapt IBM’s newly introduced personal computer, helping IBM Japan’s employees convert many U.S. PC applications to the Japanese language.

The Krouse family in 1985 outside Kathmandu.

It was an exciting time for the couple and their three children. “It was not purely the job that made our stay in Japan a favorite,” says Harold. “It was living as a family overseas, having our kids go to school in Tokyo, living in and exploring another culture, and taking wonderful vacations to The Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, China several times, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Saipan, and South Korea.”

The family learned Japanese—although Harold jokes that according to their Japanese doorman, even the family dog spoke better Japanese than he did. Carolyn became literate in the notoriously difficult language and wrote A Guide to Food Buying in Japan to help other expatriates navigate grocery shopping there. It is still in print.

The Joy of Giving Back

After 50 years in IT, Harold retired in 2013. The Krouses then had time to travel purely for fun—hiking through slot canyons in the American West, staying on working farms in Tuscany, and sojourning in Iceland and Australia. “It was like travelling on the edge of the world,” says Carolyn of Iceland and Australia.

“Still, Manhattan is the center of our universe, for the culture,” says Harold. When they are not busy traveling, the Krouses volunteer locally. After hearing about the work City Harvest does to deliver free food to people in need, Harold decided to do more than donate—he trained to help distribute food at City Harvest Mobile Markets throughout the boroughs. “I was hooked after the first market and have volunteered several mornings a week for the past eight years.”

For Carolyn, volunteering began when her children reached school age. She designed, organized, and ran an after-school enrichment program for middle-school children in Ulster County, New York, where they lived for six years. Her most recent volunteer work was at the Museum of American Finance, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate in downtown Manhattan.

While Manhattan is their center, Brooklyn, particularly Brooklyn College, and paying it forward remains on their minds, as does the reason for the scholarship fund in their name: helping STEM students to earn their degrees, join a vibrant workforce, and move up the social and financial mobility ladder. The Krouses say they have a wonderful life and everything they need, so it made sense to give back. They are low-key about it, except for one thing. “Each semester, we get letters of appreciation from students who received the scholarship telling us how they have used them,” says Harold. “We are delighted when we read these letters about their lives, majors, and goals.”