Okoniewski Gift Adds Up to Hometown Help

JAMES F. OKONIEWSKI ’72 FEELS strongly about two things – his love for his hometown of Fulton and the Oswego County area, and his belief that mathematics is a key subject for success in life.

He decided to act on those convictions by establishing a scholarship for students from Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School, his alma mater, to attend Oswego and study math. His gift of $50,000 will endow a scholarship for a Bodley graduate with financial need, majoring in mathematics or in education with a concentration in math. The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2013-14 academic year, and it is renewable, provided the recipient meets certain academic standards.

Graduate student Brendan Carter ’12, right, whose undergraduate degree was in math, helps Abby Fischer ’16, a freshman childhood education major in math, during a Sunday session of walk-in tutoring sponsored by the Office of Learning Services in Mahar Hall. A generous endowment by James F. Okoniewski ’72 will support a scholarship in math.

“I’m trying to counteract the feeling out there that the study of mathematics is not that important,” Okoniewski said. “Math is clearly important in analyzing any situation.”

He pointed out that if people were better able to analyze the risks versus the return on their investments, it would benefit, not just individuals, but the economy as a whole.

It’s a strategy he used to build a successful real estate business by analyzing the value of his property investments.

Now he would like to share his success with students from his hometown school, where his cousin Joseph Sczupac was chair of the math department. Francis Godici was a Bodley math
teacher who influenced Okoniewski.

Okoniewski’s roots run deep in Fulton, particularly in its Polish community. He was the youngest president of the city’s Polish Home, a post he held in his teens during the 1960s. “When I was younger I hung around adults more than kids my own age, so that is when I joined the Polish Home,” he explained.

As an Oswego student, he took his love for his ancestral homeland one step further and studied one summer in Poland at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, thanks to encouragement from Professor Emeritus Joseph Wiecha to apply and win a Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship.

Okoniewski shared his Polish heritage by starting a Polish language affiliation club at the college, holding a book drive to raise money to buy Polish literature for Penfield Library and bringing the first polka band to Oswego State.

He became a DJ at the student radio station WOCR and his talent was recognized by WRVO station manager Bill Shigley, who invited him to go on air at the public radio affiliate.

His other mentors were in the math department, including Professors Emeriti Richard Orr and John Daly.

Now the influence comes full circle, as with his generous endowed scholarship, Okoniewski reaches out to help generations of Oswego college students to come. l

— Michele Reed

 

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