Holocaust Museum Houston: Laurie and Milton Boniuk
Long-time humanitarians and philanthropists Laurie and Milton Boniuk base much of their good works on a simple belief: Differences among individuals should be celebrated, not feared, and we must learn to embrace individuals for whom they are and treat everyone with respect.
Laurie, a Philadelphia native, earned her B.A. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and taught school for many years. Milton, the son of an immigrant Polish father and a Russian mother, was reared in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. He attended Dalhousie University in Halifax for undergraduate and medical school and continued his education with a residency at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. There, he met Laurie, whom he married in 1958. He then attended the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, in Washington, D.C., as a fellow in Ophthalmic Pathology from 1959 to 1961. In 1961, he was recruited by Baylor College of Medicine to run the eye pathology lab and serve as assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Pathology. He became full professor at Baylor College of Medicine in 1967. The Boniuks had three children, but sadly lost their daughter Ellen in 1985.
"The first philanthropic gift we ever made was funding the Early Childhood Center at the Jewish Community Center in West Houston in Ellen's memory," states Laurie.
The couple also founded the National Society for Parent-Child Development in 1989.
"We were interested in improving parenting skills and wanted to do something that positively impacted the lives of children," she adds.
After achieving some financial success as a physician, Milton entered into the commercial real estate business in the early 1970s. Through successful investing, Milton and Laurie found themselves in a position to follow their passion to conquer discrimination, bullying and prejudice. The Boniuks were early supporters of the Holocaust Museum Houston, where Milton initially served on the board and is now on the advisory board.
"Holocaust Museum Houston does a great job. It is one of the best museums in Houston and is constantly evolving and improving," Milton proclaims.
The couple underwrote the Museum's library, and more recently, as part of the building's capital campaign, the naming of the Museum's new Educational Center. They also support the Museum of National Science and the Health Museum and made major contributions to Rice University, where they established The Boniuk Center and later the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance.
"Many religions include sects which promote hatred and violence, and our Institute is focused on promoting tolerance, compassion and respect, along with multi-culturalism and diversity," explains Milton.
Given their strong desire to impact the minds of children at an early age, the Boniuks became investors in the well-known "Chicken Soup for the Soul" organization, and have initiated the publication of three books, an anti-bullying program and television programs for both children and their parents.
The Boniuks have become known throughout the city of Houston for their commitment to philanthropy and vision for change.
"We are fortunate to have been able to create initiatives that help us all live by the golden rule," explains Milton. "It gives us pleasure to give things away, and we want to be remembered for our integrity and for treating all people with respect and compassion. If our work makes the world even a little bit better, then we would indeed have left a legacy that defines us for who we truly are."
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