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Gisela Konopka

Gisela Konopka left a generous estate gift that will fund a scholarship for disadvantaged students.

A compassionate spirit

From M, spring 2005

In the spring of 1969, with student unrest on campuses across the nation, the University of Minnesota was fortunate to have Gisela Konopka to help bridge the gap between students and administrators. Then serving in the Office of Student Affairs, she worked closely with both groups to help them see the other's perspective. Both understanding and nonjudgmental, she helped guide the campus through one of the most difficult points in its history. It is said that a good measure of people is not where they stand in times of comfort, but where they stand in times of difficulty. Until her death in 2003 at age 93, Konopka was renowned as a scholar and author in the field of social work, and was also recognized for her clear-headed, compassionate approach to difficult circumstances. During her 30-year career at the University of Minnesota, Konopka authored several noted books on adolescent health and well-being, and was recognized for her work in reforming the corrections system for youth in Minnesota. The Konopka Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health, part of the Department of Pediatrics, was named to recognize her achievements in the field. Throughout her career, she was devoted to ensuring that all people, under all circumstances, were treated with dignity. Konopka's philosophies of compassion stand in stark contrast to her own experiences as a Jewish woman in Germany. Born in Berlin, Konopka was finishing up her graduate studies as a young woman when Hitler rose to power. She spent time in concentration camps and in hiding before coming to America in 1941, and she arrived to teach at the University with her husband, Paul, in 1947.

Bequest gifts

A charitable bequest gift to your favorite college or program at the U can make a lasting impact without giving up assets during your life. To be sure your will states your intention clearly, call the U of M Foundation at 612-624-3333 and ask to speak to a planned gift officer.

Now, thanks to a gift from Konopka's estate, future generations will know her generosity of spirit. The Paul and Gisela Konopka scholarship endowment fund was created to provide funds for students who are economically disadvantaged, have experienced racial discrimination, or who have other circumstances that make further education difficult. Her gift will be matched through the President's Scholarship Match. Konopka will long be noted for her groundbreaking research in the field of adolescent development, but to those who knew her well, she will also be remembered for her sense of justice and humanity. "She taught us hope," former student David Fogel wrote to her in a letter. "Anyone taught by her is today a bit more human."

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