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.
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