Gerald Koenig ’49, 2012 Leadership and Service Award
Cornell reserves posthumous awards for exceptional circumstances, and the Alumni Board determined that Gerald Koenig, Class of ’49, fits that description.
Gerald, who died on September 13, 2011, was a community servant, veteran, and entrepreneur. While serving in the Navy during World War II, he used his Eagle Scout skills to re-establish the Philippines’ Boy Scout program, which had disbanded during the war.
On his return to Iowa, he enrolled at Cornell on the GI Bill and earned a degree in business administration. He joined Borden’s Ice Cream Company after graduation and rose to branch manager in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He took the skills learned there and at Cornell and established a frozen-food warehouse business. Kold Storage, Incorporated (Kold spelled with a “K” for Koenig) served supermarkets and other retail outlets throughout the Midwestern and Eastern United States.
For Gerald, retirement did not mean rest. At age 73 he became president of Wake Up America of Southwest Florida, Incorporated, in Fort Myers, Florida, and oversaw daily operations until a few months before his death. The all-volunteer non-profit collects and distributes 2.5 million dollars worth of free food each year—enough to serve a half-million meals. As Gerald proudly said, “We get it for free and we give it away for free.”
His community service also included being a Life Member of Lions International, which he headed as chairman of the Iowa Council of District Governors. He was also a Life Member of the Elks Club, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the United Methodist Church.
The special place Cornell held in Gerald’s life and the quality education he received here led two of his three daughters to follow his path: Lisa Koenig Reitzel ’78, who met her husband, Roger Reitzel ’76, on the hilltop; and Julie Koenig-Hill ’81. Gerald donated to Cornell nearly every year from 1995 to 2011.
We wish Gerald were here today to receive this honor, but are pleased that his family can accept on his behalf.