Shannon Bielaska, MS ’74, Makes Gifts in Her Will to Endow Support for Student-Athletes

Photo of Shannon BielaskaIC alumna Shannon Bielaska’s first impressions of the college were formed in a somewhat unique way: from the back of her family’s car.

“My older brother went to Lehigh University; so to get from Rochester to Lehigh, we drove by IC all the time,” she recalls. When we’d go by campus, I’d say to my parents ‘That’s the school I’m going to go to.’ I must’ve been about 12 years old.”

Her intuition was as inexplicable as it was spot on. She did, in fact, attend IC. Twice. First, for two years as an undergraduate then as a graduate student—earning her master’s degree in physical education in 1974.

Some of her most pivotal experiences at IC revolved around sports. As an undergrad, she played basketball and volleyball and still has friends from that time. These were pre-Title IX days, when the disparity between women’s and men’s sports was marked.

“Later on, as I started watching my own daughter play sports, I thought how my college experience would’ve been different if I’d had those kinds of opportunities,” she says. “It struck me that this would be a good place to be philanthropic.”

Today Shannon makes annual gifts to IC’s women’s basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, and softball teams—and has for years. But lately another thought has entered her mind.

“As you get older, you start thinking: What will happen once I’m no longer here to support these programs?”

Shannon answered that question. Through her will, she’s created two endowments: one to support women’s athletics, the other to support the IC Leadership Academy—a program designed to instill leadership traits and philosophies in the college’s student-athletes.

“I would say, for me, this is a gift of love,” Shannon explains. “If others remember the college fondly and really loved their time in Ithaca, they could certainly consider doing the same thing.”


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