RGK Center

[Corrected Oct. 1: Because of a reporting error, this story misidentified Kerri Battles, a public affairs specialist, as an LBJ School spokeswoman. The story also should have said the RGK Foundation donated $5 million to the LBJ School, and misidentified the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service as a branch of the RGK Foundation.]

 Ronya Kozmetsky, who contributed millions to a philanthrophic center in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, died Tuesday at the age of 90.

Ronya and her late husband George Kozmetsky created the RGK Foundation, an independent philanthropic foundation that seeks to create progressive ways to aid the needy.

RGK are the initials of Ronya and George Kozmetsky. Ronya’s daughter Nadya Scott and her son Gregory Kozmetsky, who now heads the Foundation, survive her.

The foundation donated an initial $5 million to establish the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the LBJ School, according to the center's website. The RGK Center is an affiliated branch of the foundation.

Kozmetsky’s optimism and belief in giving was galvanizing, said LBJ School dean Robert Hutchings. Her legacies, the RGK Foundation and the RGK Center in the LBJ School, embody the way she looked at helping people, he said.

“I never had the privilege of actually meeting her, but I know of her work,” Hutchings said. “She was an inspiring figure. The real contribution [to philanthropy] that she made was her idealism, and believing in a culture of giving and a culture of philanthropy.”

Through her foundations, her giving expanded not just in Austin but throughout and outside of Texas, Hutchings said.

Her greatest gift was her revolutionary view on philanthropy, he said.

“She took the whole idea of philanthropy on a more systematic basis,” he said. “She understood that as important as it was to provide for the needy, there needed to be this whole culture of giving. I think that’s what the RGK Center has.”

Funeral services are scheduled for 3 p.m. today at Tarrytown United Methodist Church.

Printed on Friday, October 28, 2011 as: Renowned philanthropist dies at 90

University students worldwide will compete this week for a chance to win a $50,000 grand prize to jump-start their plan for social entrepreneurship. The fifth annual Dell Social Innovation Competition is a partnership between Dell Computers and the LBJ School’s RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. “We want to see transformative, interdisciplinary solutions to anything from health issues, educational issues, to potable water and nutritional food,” said Mary Beth Bennett, a graduate research assistant for the RGK Center and graduate student in advertising. “We think UT has a big part to play in expanding student entrepreneurship,” Bennett said. Jeff Paine, a finalist from last year’s competition, graduated with a master’s degree in chemical engineering. He now works full time on his project, Break it Down, a sustainable compost program. “It was a good experience ... as far as writing a business plan and being prepared to present and send it ... just putting in all the effort and preparation, not only for the competition but just for the business itself,” Paine said. In order to apply, students must submit a 500-word plan for their idea by Feb. 14. Selected applicants will be announced in March and will receive guidance on refining their idea until the final winner is announced in May. “The vision for the competition is to spark the entrepreneurial spirit in students towards solving a social problem,” said Suzi Sosa, RGK Center assistant director for programs. Dell and RGK will award $100,000 in total cash prizes and Dell laptops for finalists as seed money for their ideas. The first place winner will receive $50,000, and selected semi-finalists will attend idea-building seminars and receive coaching to further refine their ideas. Student participants from UT will also be entered in a drawing for a free Dell laptop. As of Friday, 25 UT students have entered the competition. For more information on the Dell Social Innovation Competition to view entries or to submit an idea, visit dellsocialinnovationcompetition.com.