ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A $1 million gift from local philanthropists Chet and Karen Opalka established the Opalka Endowed Directorship of the New York State Writers Institute (NYSWI) at the University at Albany. The award will provide support for the Writer’s Institute’s leadership and creative programming while ensuring the organizations future.

President Havidán Rodríguez comments, “We are making history tonight with the largest gift in the program’s 40-year history,” “The Opalkas’ transformative gift assures the continued excellence of the Writers Institute for the next 40 years and beyond — and we are immensely grateful for Karen and Chet’s generosity, leadership, and friendship.” Director of the writer’s institute since 2017 Paul Grondahl, will be the first recipient of the directorship.

“It is my honor and a great privilege to hold the title of The Opalka Endowed Directorship,” Grondahl said. “Chet and Karen Opalka inspire me with their philanthropy, their sustained commitment to arts organizations across the Capital Region, and especially the Writers Institute over the years. With this gift, we can continue to bring the greatest writers from around the world and the most diverse voices in contemporary literature to UAlbany, and to share their work with Capital Region audiences. I am proud to call Chet and Karen my friends.”

Chet Opalka adds, “Karen and I are excited to announce The Opalka Endowed Directorship of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany,” “This gift represents our ongoing support of the tremendous work of director Paul Grondahl and his team in bringing the greatest writers from around the world to UAlbany to enrich the cultural life of the Capital Region.”

Chet and Karen Opalka have become leading philanthropists, particularly for the arts and cultural institutions across the Capital Region, who are driven by a deep desire to add to the quality of life, cultivate open-minded collaborations, and create value in the region and beyond. Since 1983, the NYSWI has brought more than 2,500 writers including 13 Nobel laureates and more than 100 Pulitzer and National Book Award winners to UAlbany. In 2023, the 40th anniversary of NYSWI will feature a slate of more than 30 literary, film and cultural events, including visits by four Pulitzer Prize winners.