Legacy gift will provide college scholarships to Jewish students, help counter antisemitism on campus, and support students’ mental health
Jules and Gwen Knapp lived with a passion for Jewish community, a desire to help those in need, and a lasting commitment to philanthropy.
That spirit of generosity and care for the Jewish future is embodied in a recently announced legacy gift left by the Knapps to Hillel International to fund student scholarships, support students’ mental health and wellness, and help counter rising antisemitism on college campuses.
Jules Knapp was a self-made entrepreneur who believed in the impact that hard work and a strong team could have on the world, both in business and the philanthropic community. Jules started a small paint company in the basement of his house outside of Chicago, which he nurtured over the decades to become the largest private-label paint company in the United States.
Alongside him, Jules’ wife, Gwen, ran their family’s investment projects with her characteristic financial management acumen. As their business grew, Jules and Gwen always prioritized supporting the broader community that was so important to them.
After one of their daughters, Joy, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus, the Knapps focused their philanthropy even more closely on healthcare and education. Their work with the University of Chicago was so transformative that the University honored them and coined the term, “The Knapp Effect” for the way they galvanized others with their generosity and were able to impact communities on a larger scale.
The Knapp Effect has also been passed down to the next generation of philanthropists in the family. Inspired by her parents’ commitment to giving, specifically to education, the Knapps’ daughter Elyse Sollender founded a scholarship in her late husband’s name: The Jeffrey D. Sollender Scholarship.
The award supports graduating high school seniors in the San Diego area who demonstrate outstanding achievement in entrepreneurial ventures, community service, or in the workplace. Created in partnership with the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, this renewable scholarship is focused on helping first-generation students from all over the world pursue their professional dreams and attend the college of their choice by assisting with the cost of higher education.
The Knapps’ legacy gift to Hillel International will fund two new scholarships for Jewish students, including one for first-generation college students. These scholarships will be renewable over the course of the students’ undergraduate studies, allowing them greater security and freedom to achieve their educational goals.
In addition to helping more Jewish students gain access to a college education and mental health and wellness resources, the Knapps’ gift to Hillel will also fund initiatives for combatting antisemitism through education and training for Hillel staff and students, and microgrants to campus Hillels experiencing antisemitism locally. Education and Jewish identity were always important to the Knapps, and Elyse’s hope is that this gift will give young people on campus the knowledge and history to be prepared to respond to antisemitic incidents.
“My grandparents experienced unfathomable challenges and tragedies in their lives," said Shane Sollender, the Knapps’ granddaughter. "But instead of retreating from life they rose up and committed themselves to helping others.”
Through this gift – a continued reminder of the Knapps’ generosity and passion for helping others – more students will be able to afford their educational and professional dreams, showcase their pride in being Jewish, and connect to Hillel and Jewish life on campus to enrich and perpetuate their Jewish identities.