Irwin M. Rosenthal, Visionary Co-Founder of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Passes Away

NEW YORK, NY - The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation announced today the passing of co-founding member, philanthropist, entrepreneur and lawyer, Irwin M. Rosenthal. Motivated by his wife Suzanne’s struggle with Crohn’s disease, Irwin, along with William and Shelby Modell, and Dr. Henry D. Janowitz, founded the Foundation for Research in Ileitis, now known as the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.  It was the combination of his tenacity, compassion and love for his wife that put the Foundation on the road to success.


“On behalf of the millions of Americans battling IBD, we are incredibly grateful to Irwin for his leadership,” said Michael Osso, President  & CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “He was best known for his ability to empower others, like his wife Suzanne, and provide them with the support and encouragement to shine. We would not be where we are today without Irwin’s vision and determination. We are forever grateful to both of the Rosenthals for all that they have done to advance IBD research and care.”



It began in 1956. Irwin and Suzanne were due to be married in a few months, when suddenly Suzanne came down with debilitating symptoms that put her life on hold. Doctors were unsure of her condition for a few years and misdiagnosed her, consequently worsening her symptoms by prescribing her with the wrong medications. Once she was finally diagnosed with ileo-colitis, Irwin was overwhelmed with frustration that there was no known cure for the illness and no efforts to find one.


Sparked by his frustration, in 1965 he approached Dr. Henry D. Janowitz, Suzanne’s gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, and asked him what it would take to start doing research for this disease. The reply was $9,000 a year. Irwin was determined and embraced this goal by relentlessly sending letters of appeal to family, friends and members of his synagogue, urging them to help him raise money to support ileitis research. Exceeding the ask, he raised $25,000!


Dr. Janowitz provided the medical expertise, while Irwin, a successful lawyer, provided the necessary legal, political, strategic and organizational guidance. The last piece of the puzzle was William Modell, the Chairman of the Board of Modell’s Sporting Goods, (whose son, Michael was suffering with the disease), joined as a co-founder and provided the networking and fundraising skills necessary to complete the package.


In 1967, with a research grant of $32,000, the non-profit organization, the Foundation for Research in Ileitis, officially began. Irwin was the President of the Foundation for the first 10 years of its existence. With Irwin’s vision in mind, it wasn’t long before the Foundation spread throughout the nation. Irwin was also concurrently the Co-Founder of the Digestive Disease National Coalition, another example of his never-ending compassion and drive for the cause. Irwin was a devoted husband, inspired to do good out of the love he felt for his wife.


With their extraordinary passion the Foundation has funded more than $300 million for research which has led to new life changing medications and treatments.  Irwin's legacy will continue to live on in the generations of doctors, researchers, patients and volunteers he impacted by asking the question 50 years ago, “Why isn’t somebody doing something about this?” He answered the question, “We will!”



Irwin was a corporate securities lawyer.  He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Science and received a J.D. from Yale University Law School as well as an LLM Masters in Tax from NYU Graduate School of Law. Irwin was the Founding and Managing Partner, Chairman of Securities and Corporate Practice at Weiss, Bronston, Rosenthal Heller & Schwartzman LLP.  He was the Senior Managing Partner of Securities Law at Botein, Hayes & Sklar; Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman; and Phillips Nizer LLP.


He served as the Co-Chair of Federal Securities of the American Bar Association.

Irwin served on the Board of Advisors for Mount Sinai Hospital and was instrumental in the growth of many gastroenterology departments in major hospitals in New York.

He was an adjunct professor of Securities Law and on the Board of Directors at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, NY. Just a young lawyer, during the Korean War he was made Captain and Chief Legal Officer of relations between the Air Force and the US Airlines and helped create the Civil Reserve Air Fleet Program.


An entrepreneur at heart, Irwin was responsible for the IPO's of such companies as Integrated Resources and SYMS Corp. He also served as the co-founder and/or director of several medical technology companies.


Irwin and Suzanne had a passion for opera and Irwin was a diehard New York Jets fan.


The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation staff and volunteers extend its deepest sympathy to the Rosenthal family. He is survived by his daughters Karen B. Rosenthal and Robin J. Mehler and his granddaughters Jenna Mehler, Jack Mehler and Abby Ebrahimoff. The three grandchildren have continued their grandparents' legacy by their involvement in the Young Business & Professional Division (co-founded by Karen Rosenthal) and the Foundation's Teen Group.


Crohn's & Colitis Foundation

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization focused on both research and patient support for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with the mission of curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and improving the quality of life for the millions of Americans living with IBD. The Foundation’s work is dramatically accelerating the research process, while also providing extensive educational and support resources for patients and their families, medical professionals, and the public.