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School of Labor & Employment Relations University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Donor Profile

Joel Zelnick, AM ’57

zelnickJoel Zelnick believes that the LER program gave him a great leg-up in his career. He argues that without his education, he would not have been able to survive. He chose to support LER because he holds the short time spent at LER close to his heart. Having attended LER with the support of the GI bill, he is a firm believer that “people that get should also give; it should be a two-way street.”

Though he doesn’t stay in close contact with fellow alumni, he is excited about the opportunities LER continues to provide students and notes that his education was a fundamental part of his life’s successes. He spent two semesters at LER and completed his thesis under then-Director, Professor Milton Derber.

Mr. Zelnick interned at Jones and Walkman Steel in Cleveland during the great steel strike of 1956. Working for a mill assistant superintendent, he gained exposure to unions and collective bargaining practices, so he was able to apply what he learned in the labor union course he’d taken while learning applicable information and best practices. He later did pioneering work for companies like IBM and PriceWaterhouse.

Joel’s legacy does not stand alone. He memorialized the memory of his wife and son, who have both passed away, in the naming of gift to LER. He and his wife were married 52 years and he credits her with much of his successes. “My wife actually helped me when I was a student at Illinois because she was able to type my thesis faster than Prof. Derber could reject it!”

Joel stated, “Part of our life is living our life and the other part is giving back to those who helped us. Therefore, if I was fortunate enough to get, I’m willing to give back. There’s more to life than just possessions; your legacy should be based on giving back to society.” This is exactly what he has done.