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Kolschowsky, Karen & Kolschowsky, Jerry

Published onMar 12, 2021
Kolschowsky, Karen & Kolschowsky, Jerry

Karen Kolschowsky, 2017

Commissioned by University Museums and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. U2017.346

Jerry Kolschowsky, 2017

Commissioned by University Museums and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. U2017.347

KAREN and JERRY KOLSCHOWSKY (BS ‘62 agricultural business) are one of Iowa State’s most active and generous couples. Jerry is the retired chairman and co-CEO of OSI Industries, LLC, a company he helped lead to become one of the world’s largest providers of processed meats, poultry and related products. Karen is a graduate of Michigan State University and has been active with Jerry in many of his business efforts, including trips to other parts of the world, where they saw firsthand the devastation caused by poverty and hunger.

In 2004 the Kolschowskys accompanied ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences officials on a trip to Uganda. They saw both the challenges and the opportunity to help people increase local food security, strengthen sustainable resource use practices, increase income, and improve household and community well-being. Almost immediately after that trip, the Kolschowskys announced a commitment to create and permanently endow the ISU Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. The endowment now totals more than $10 million.

“We witnessed poverty and hunger first-hand, both during my 25-plus years of working in international markets and in our personal travels,” said Jerry. “We partnered with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences because we felt ISU had the expertise in agriculture, nutrition and education to help us to reach a goal of reducing hunger and poverty in sustainable ways.”

Since 2004, the Center has touched thousands of people in Uganda’s Kamuli District with a comprehensive program addressing childhood nutrition, education, crop and livestock production, food security and economic development. Students from Iowa State and Makerere University in Uganda also work with the Center, which transforms their attitudes about service and rural issues. In 2018, a new training facility in the Kamuli District will be dedicated to serve the Center’s programs and the local community.

“Our greatest joy is seeing young people being equipped to reach their potential and have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life,” Karen said. “This program works with schoolchildren from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, yet these children often are seen smiling. They show an eagerness to learn, and they feel increasingly optimistic about the future.”

The Kolschowskys have helped build other ISU programs including University Museums, athletics, the Intensive Livestock Teaching and Research Facility, and the General University Fund for Excellence. They also established the Gerald A. and Karen A. Kolschowsky Foundation Scholarships for minority students in agriculture.

Jerry received the 2014 ISU Distinguished Alumni Award and Karen named an ISU Honorary Alumna in 2008. In 2006, they received the Order of the Knoll Campanile Award, the most prestigious award for lifetime giving at ISU. A first-floor wing in Iowa State’s Curtiss Hall is named in their honor.

The Kolschowskys live in Sarasota, Florida. They have two sons, Timothy and Michael.

Former Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Wendy Wintersteen (2016): Jerry’s career took him and Karen around the world. The perspectives they gained gave them a sensitivity to meeting the needs and developing the potential of all people. They care deeply about the growth and development of young people, students, the disadvantaged and the needy.

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