Wilkes University will celebrate its legacy of educating first-generation college students at the 2020 Founders Gala on Saturday, June 6. Now in its seventh year, the gala will be held at 6 p.m. at the Westmoreland Club, 59 S. Franklin St. in Wilkes-Barre.
Proceeds from the event support the First Generation Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship funds to students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree. Established in 2014, the fund has raised nearly $3 million.
The highlight of the event will be the presentation of the President’s Medal to Esther B. Davidowitz of Kingston, Pa. The President’s Medal is bestowed annually on an individual whose personal and professional life reflect the highest aspirations of Wilkes University.
Davidowitz has been a supporter of Wilkes for nearly 50 years. She was a member of the board of trustees from 1973 through 2006 when she received emerita status. During her tenure on the board, she served as treasurer and secretary, and was the chair of the academic program committee and executive board. Davidowitz has been a close advisor and friend to each of the University’s presidents and co-edited the writings of Wilkes’ founding president, Eugene S. Farley, in “Essays of an Educator.”
“Few people have preserved the history of Wilkes University in the detail and eloquence of Essy Davidowitz. She has been a force in our evolution, seeing us through one of the most formative moments in our history when Wilkes College became Wilkes University in 1990,” said interim President Paul S. Adams. “As former chair of our academic affairs committee of the board of trustees, Essy had a guiding hand in the academic development of the University. She has always been an advocate for the educational advancement of our students, especially those who are the first in their family to earn a degree. It is our honor to award her with the President’s Medal.”
A prominent figure in the Wyoming Valley, Davidowitz received numerous accolades for her professional, civic and community efforts. She was awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and was the recipient of the Hannah G. Solomon Award from the National Council of Jewish Women.
Davidowitz and her family have also been recognized by the borough of Kingston, Temple Israel and Generation2Generation for their work in the community.
Davidowitz was a non-governmental representative to the local chapter of the United Nations for the National Council of Jewish Women. She was also a co-chair and delegate to the “Faith in Humankind Conference” of the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she was appointed as a delegate to the Global Peace Initiative of Women in Geneva, Switzerland. As a member of the advisory board, Davidowitz was involved in creating courses at Wilkes that trained women on running small businesses and becoming financially independent. She developed similar courses for UNIFEM of the United Nations, the Afghan Women’s Business Council and the Kabul University working with Anne Friedman Glauber.
She helped establish the Muriel Bravman opera library collection housed in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts. Davidowitz has also served in leadership positions for the Osterhout Free Library, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Ethics Institute, the Luzerne County Area Agency on Aging, Temple Israel of Wilkes-Barre, John Heinz Institute, the Jewish Community Center, WVIA, the Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic and the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
Davidowitz is a graduate of Wyoming Seminary, Kingston, Pa., and Simmons College, Boston, Mass., and has been recognized by both institutions as an outstanding graduate. She and her late husband, William, founder of Penn Footwear in Nanticoke, were married for 62 years. They have four sons and nine grandchildren.
For more information about sponsorships and attending the Founders Gala, please visit www.wilkes.edu/foundersgala or call (570) 408-4302.