New gifts from the William & Sheila Konar Foundation support literacy

Gifts from the William & Sheila Konar Foundation support literacy

University celebrates the Konar Foundation’s generosity and mourns the recent loss of Sheila Konar

headshot of Sheila Konar

Sheila Konar

The William & Sheila Konar Foundation recently made a $1.5 million gift to establish the Sheila Konar Professorship at the University of Rochester’s Warner School. The Konar Foundation’s gift will forever support a faculty member who has a strong focus on literacy learning, is engaged in community-based instruction programs, and is involved in partnerships that elevate reading and comprehension skills for marginalized students.

The Konar Foundation also made a $275,000 gift to support the Project READ Fund, which will provide immediate support for the program along with related literacy book pilot projects. Established in 2011 with Konar Foundation funding and support, Project READ is a partnership program with Rochester’s School 33 and East High School’s upper and lower schools. The program focuses on helping children approach literacy tasks with confidence and ability so that they are able to read and write better and improve their success at school. Project READ evolved out of a program that started with School 36, which has since closed.

Sheila Konar, who died in October of 2021, attended School 36 as a child and volunteered there for years. She also supported literacy programs at School 33. “My mother was passionate about literacy. She knew first-hand the difference that excellent programs and teachers could make in the lives of young people,” says Howard Konar, president of Konar Properties, a Konar Foundation trustee, and co-chair for the advocacy council at the Warner School’s Center for Urban Education Success (CUES). “She wanted young people to love reading and learning. The foundation’s most recent gifts honor her passion for education—they are a part of her legacy.”

“Although we celebrate these recent gifts and the difference they will make in the lives of young people, we also mourn the loss of Mrs. Konar,” says Sarah Peyre, dean of the Warner School. “She was a true visionary. We are immensely grateful to her and her family foundation for their ongoing support here at Warner, at the Medical Center, and around the community.”

Over the last few decades, the Konar Foundation has established professorships along with research and program funds to support literacy and urban education initiatives at Warner, patient-centered care in geriatrics and palliative medicine, and Alzheimer’s disease research at the Medical Center. It has also provided funding that led to the creation of the Konar Center for Digestive and Liver Diseases.

Established in 1982 by William and Sheila Konar, the Konar Foundation is committed to supporting issues closest to the family, including education, health and human services, cultural and civic projects, and Jewish life and culture. The late William Konar was a Holocaust survivor who made his way to Rochester in the 1940s and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School. Both William and Sheila Konar personally experienced the profound degree to which access to education and health care could improve lives.

Remembering Sheila Konar

“Sheila Konar was passionate about helping children learn and believed that literacy was the key to combating poverty. She was a trail blazer, a role model, and a treasured friend. It was a privilege to work side by side with her to support literacy learning, and a great honor to call her my friend. Sheila cared deeply that every child learns to read and has the opportunity for academic success and a brighter future. This gift will help ensure that her vision will live on for perpetuity. As Sheila always said, ‘What I care most about is what is best for the children.’ Sheila Konar was an extraordinary woman who proved that one person can make a huge positive difference in the lives of many. She will be greatly missed, and her memory is truly a blessing.”
Carol St. George, professor and literacy expert at the Warner School

“Sheila was unapologetic in demanding that CUES does more than research the problem of transforming a community of underserved children. Ms. Konar insisted we work with families, scholars, and staff to improve the structural and academic outcomes in complex school systems. Her spirit of directness, transparency, and thoughtfulness is what made her special.”
Shaun Nelms, the William and Sheila Konar Director for CUES and associate professor in educational leadership at the Warner School

“Sheila Konar advocated tirelessly for the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) cause. She was a staunch supporter of local and national research efforts to end a disease that she knew up close and personal from her husband’s battle with AD. Bill’s fight was her fight and she wanted other patients and families to have the same access to the top-level research and care that he did. On a personal note, it is very much my honor to be the inaugural William B. and Sheila Konar Professor. I greatly appreciated our frequent conversations and her steadfast encouragement and support that so facilitated my work. She’ll be missed.”
Anton P. Porsteinsson, MD, the William B. and Sheila Konar Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, Neuroscience, and Medicine and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education (AD-CARE) Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Join us

Find out how you can support research, scholarship, and other areas that mean the most to you. Learn more here. For more information on how to support the Warner School and literacy, contact Preston Faulkner, executive director of Warner Advancement.

Kristine Kappel Thompson, December 2021

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