Olive Leskow is a proud and devoted graduate of Ball State University, and BSU returned the favor recently by presenting her with a token of their appreciation - the Wings of Beneficence Award.
Leskow, 94 and a resident of Chicagoland Christian Village in Crown Point, is the daughter of Russian immigrants who emphasized to Olive and her late sister, Sonia, the treasure and value of an education.
Both girls were brilliant students in high school, but college seemed out of reach during The Depression, especially with their father ill with Addison's disease. Their exemplary work ethic caught the attention of administrators at Ball State Teachers College, however, and university officials provided them with the means through jobs and scholarships to finance their higher education.
Olive worked in the library and was also a typist in the Administration Building. The Dean of Women arranged for Sonia to be a night switchboard operator at Ball Memorial Hospital.
Olive earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics, and later a master's from the University of Minnesota. She finished course work for her Ph.D. from Purdue University, but was diverted from finishing her dissertation when asked to join a team writing a geometry textbook.
Professors and peers strongly encouraged her to take on this challenging, four-year task. She used her innovative ideas to create the supplemental activities, tests and overlays, and even suggested a chapter on the theory of symbolic logic that was included in the book published by McGraw-Hill. Olive pursued her passion for teaching for 43 years, all in the Gary Public Schools. She is a member of Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Merrillville.
Meanwhile, Sonia earned a bachelor's degree in education and business, her master's in guidance from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. in child development from PU. She was an educator for 41 years in the Gary Public Schools and passed away five years ago.
Both sisters continued to give back to their alma mater through scholarship donations.
BSU’s gift to Leskow, presented by Dr. Michael A. Maggiotto, dean of the College of Sciences and Humanities, is an etched-glass replica of the statue of Beneficence on campus. It “symbolizes the power of personal giving,” Dr. Maggiotto said.
Veronica Conde, a former colleague and long time personal friend, said: "After the presentation, Olive was deeply moved, temporarily speechless, and proudly invites everyone to her room to view her 'Beneficence,'"
The sisters never forgot what their parents taught them: “Always give to those who really deserve help," and "Always finish what you start,” and many BSU students have benefited.
The sisters were initiated into the Beta Sigma chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International for Key Women Educators.
"She was an innovator and role model for younger teachers," said Charlotte Abernethy, a former mathematics colleague and fellow Beta Sigma member.