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November 19, 2003
Konnekers help Ohio University produce the next generation of engaged learners
By Amy Wells

Wilfred and Ann Lee Konneker have continued their extraordinary philanthropy at Ohio University with a recent $1 million gift that will support the Cutler Scholars Program. In recognition of Wilfred Konneker's significant career achievements, as well as the Konnekers' consistent support of Ohio University, a new biography, "Chain Reactions: The Life of Wilfred R. Konneker," was launched on Nov. 6.

"Will and Ann Lee Konneker have once again demonstrated their loyalty to Ohio University, their belief in higher education and their commitment to helping deserving students," says Ohio University President Robert Glidden. "We are grateful to them for their wonderful generosity and for their continuing support of Ohio University's Cutler Scholars Program, which is designed to produce leaders of the future."

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Wilfred Konneker, B.S '43, M.S. '47 and HON '80, and his wife Ann Lee, HON '80, have committed more than $16.5 million to Ohio University in support of students, faculty and alumni. They are long-time, generous contributors to the Cutler Scholars Program. The most recent Konneker gift will provide financial support for the management of the program.

"The recent gift from Dr. Konneker is one of several he has provided since the Cutler Scholars program began just a few short years ago," says Jack Ellis, vice president emeritus and associate director of the Cutler Scholars Program. "His support, previous and current, ensures the program's continued growth, good health, and future success. As one of the principle architects of the program, he has given so generously of himself and of his finances. The Cutler Scholars Award has become one of the premier scholarship recognition programs at Ohio University and throughout higher education."

Named in honor of Ohio University co-founder Manasseh Cutler, whose guiding principal was that "education shall forever be encouraged," the Cutler Scholars Program began with a discussion between Wilfred Konneker and Ellis, then vice-president for development at Ohio University. Konneker was searching for an idea that would recognize and reward scholarship among students at his high school alma mater and encourage them to attend Ohio University.

"This program is the little bit of extra that may really be of value," he says. "The summer programs and special opportunities make a big difference."

Founded in 1995, the scholarship program was modeled after Oxford University's Rhodes Scholars program for graduate students. The scholarships provide students with tuition, room and board and stipends for summer travel and structured programs.

The program became a reality in 1996 with six students. Today, the University has more than 35 Cutler Scholars.

Many criteria are considered for Cutler Scholars candidates, including academic standing, leadership potential, physical vigor, personal integrity and extracurricular achievements.

The four Cutler Scholarships currently supported by the Konnekers help students from Greenfield, Ohio. Wilfred Konneker, a graduate of Greenfield-McClain High School in Greenfield, Ohio, has endowed four Cutler Scholarships at the high school. In addition to the Cutler Scholarships, the Konnekers endowed a tuition scholarship for students who are "runners-up" for the yearly Cutler Scholarship at Greenfield-McClain.

"The Cutler Scholars program has done a great deal for me," says Michael Taylor, a senior business major and member of the Ohio University Marching 110. "Our colloquium each week gives me the opportunity to discuss important political and social issues with some of the brightest students at Ohio University."

Taylor's first experience as a Cutler Scholar was a whitewater rafting trip with Outward Bound. "The summer programs are amazing," he says. "The trip is all about self-discovery, figuring out who you are as you make the transition into college."

His second summer program included a community- or public-service project. Taylor worked with March of Dimes in Columbus. "This was an unpaid position, so the scholarship allowed me pay for room and board in Columbus," he says.

The third summer program was a study abroad experience. "This past summer, I studied in Ancona, Italy," said Taylor. "I may have never had the opportunity to study abroad without the Cutler Scholarship."

In 1998, the Konnekers pledged $6.25 million to endow 19 future undergraduate scholarships that will support not only students from Ohio, but also those from across the United States and internationally as well.

"The Konnekers are two of Ohio University's most generous and dedicated supporters," says Leonard Raley, vice president for university advancement and executive director of the Ohio University Foundation. "Their commitment through both their time and their philanthropy will have a wonderful influence on this University for years to come."

Generous supporters of the Bicentennial Campaign, the Konnekers have made a number of significant commitments to University programs since the start of the campaign in 1997. Their generosity has benefited intercollegiate athletics, the college of fine arts, Alden Library, the college of education, the center for international studies and the Konneker Alumni Center.

The Konnekers have established a $1 million endowment to maintain the Konneker Alumni Center. In 1981, they donated the former Grosvenor House on University Terrace to the University to convert into the center. Their campaign commitment of $2 million created the Ann Lee Konneker Chair in the Sciences for the college of arts and sciences. This chair will allow the University to recruit a professor who will generate new knowledge and prepare future generations of Ohio University students for lives of reflection and engagement with the world around them.

"Dr. Konneker is an amazing man who has accomplished so much," Taylor says. "I'm so proud to have a donor that has done so much for Ohio University. Dr. Konneker keeps track of all his scholars, and I converse with him several times a year."

Konneker is one of the most distinguished graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, having earned a bachelor of science in chemistry and mathematics in 1943 and an master of science in physics in 1947. He was a pioneer in the early years of nuclear physics and worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

After earning his doctorate in physics from Washington University, Konneker went on to co-found seven companies, including Nuclear Consultants, Inc., which supplied radioactive isotopes for medicine. Throughout his career, he has been a leading expert in the use of radioisotopes in diagnostic and therapeutic medicine, having consulted for an array of hospitals, businesses and other organizations, including the Atomic Energy Commission.

An honorary alumna of the University, Ann Lee attended Ohio University and completed a bachelor's degree at Ohio State University in 1946. She assisted in the restoration of the Konneker Alumni Center, received the University's Baker Award in 1998 and has been an active participant in University fundraising campaigns, alumni events and other University activities.

The Bicentennial Campaign - which has raised more than $180 million toward its goal of raising $200 million in time for the University's bicentennial in 2004 - will provide money for scholarships, endowed professorships, technological enhancements, innovative programs and selected capital improvements.

Amy Wells is a development communication assistant for the Division of University Advancement

 

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