Rich and Judy Konitzer

Although Mr. Konitzer, 74, wasn’t speaking about himself when he said it, the former Air Force mechanic,  chemistry and mathematics teacher, beer wholesaler,  refrigeration specialist and current farmer seems to fit the definition. Add to his list of life experiences husband, father, grandfather, philanthropist and cancer survivor, and he certainly fits the definition.

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It was cancer that brought Mr. Konitzer, who lives with his wife, Judy, in Leland, Ill, 70 miles southwest of Chicago, toLoyola University Medical Center. Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer at another institution, his doctor referred him to Loyola where he was treated by Scott Smith, MD. (Although, as he laughingly admitted, “not before I called my accountant and my attorney.”) Now a six-year cancer survivor, he and his wife have recently made two generous gifts to Loyola University Health System—$50,000 to name a nursing station on the hospital’s renovated cancer floor and a $600,000 estate gift supporting cancer research.

For Mr. Konitzer, Loyola provides a great fit for his philanthropy. A lifelong Catholic, he grew up around relatives with religious vocations, attended Marmion Academy and St. Procopius College and met his wife on New Year’s Eve at a social club event for Catholic young people. He is active in his parish, where he teaches a course in world history as it pertains to Church history. But there are plenty of Catholic causes, and he contributes to many of them. Why focus on Loyola? It is, he says, the combination of care he received, the Catholic atmosphere and the research he knows the institution supports. “First, the dedication of the staff is unbelievable. And on my first stay, I talked religion and St. Ignatius with the priest who brought me communion in my room. But research is very important to me. Loyola has the latest and greatest, along with outstanding physicians. I can’t talk any more enthusiastically about the institution,” he said.

As a kid growing up in Chicago, Mr. Konitzer liked to hang outat the neighborhood drug store and read agriculture magazines. He thought that it would be nice to live in the country someday.  So, just after they were married, and while he was still a beer wholesaler, the Konitzers bought their first 40 acres with a big rambling house in Oswego, Ill. Today, they manage some 800 acres overall. They grow corn and soybeans, and continue to acquire land. It is a good life. “In agriculture, you do everything you can for your neighbors… in industry it isn’t that way,” he said.

Although he is still susceptible to infection because of his treatment, he feels better every day. Par for the course: after a recent bout with pneumonia, he got up on his tractor to plant some trees he got for Father’s Day. When he is not managing his business interests, he spends a lot of time reading, favoring nonfiction from his collection or borrowed from the library where Mrs. Konitzer works part time. Perhaps it is this contemplative bent, together with a life lived in faith that leads him to observe “We are all in the body of Christ and are working out our salvation. Philanthropy is what you owe because God has given you existence.”  

For more information on supporting cancer programs and research at Loyola, contact us at (708) 216-3201 or development@lumc.edu.

Caption: 
Cooperating with God to Improve Life for All