Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, has announced a gift totaling more than $4.1 million from the estate of Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko in support of several projects and initiatives.
The gift will establish the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Chair in Professional Ethics, which initially will be dedicated to ethical issues in the context of medicine and health care; the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race and Equality, which will focus on generating research, applying that research to action and integrating issues of race and equality into academic life at Niagara; and an associate director of equity and inclusion position. The bequest also will support need-based scholarships for deserving students.
A native of Germany, Ostapenko emigrated to the United States in the 1930s and later founded the Sewing Shop in Washington, D.C., the precursor to the House of Fine Fabrics, a seventeen-store chain that she sold in 1978 to Fabri-Center of America. Ostapenko received an honorary doctorate from Niagara in 1986, and on her passing in 2014 a portion of her estate was designated to support the university.
"We are incredibly humbled and thankful for the gift that Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko has left for Niagara University," said Rev. James J. Maher, the university’s president. "As an immigrant, Rose was familiar with the struggles of people who live on the margins of our society, and Niagara's Vincentian mission resonated strongly with her. We are incredibly thankful to her for her generosity, and it is our mission to uphold the wishes and the legacy of Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko."