8 Sep
Abby Robin Jacknowitz

A new travel fund that will help with the costs of bringing school children to the Art Museum of West Virginia University, honors the memory of a creative young teacher named Abby Jacknowitz who died in 2013.

Her aunt and uncle, Linda and Arthur Jacknowitz, of Morgantown, recently established the Abby Robin Jacknowitz School Travel Fund at the museum.

The fund pays for buses to and from primary and secondary schools, customized programs at various grade levels, snacks, and art supplies for hand-on activities during school visits to the museum.

“It has been a year since the Art Museum of WVU opened its doors, and since that time, more than 1,000 school children from northern West Virginia and surrounding areas have visited the museum,” said Director Joyce Ice.

“During the visits, the students engage with works of art in the museum galleries and then participate in art activities designed to build upon the concepts and themes they explored while looking at the art.

“But field trips can be very expensive, and with limited budgets, some schools cannot afford to make the trip to Morgantown. The Abby Robin Jacknowitz School Travel Fund will make a difference by helping to cover the cost of buses. This new fund will help us bring in even more students, many of whom have never before had the opportunity to visit an art museum. We are very grateful to Art and Linda Jacknowitz for their generosity in providing these funds.”

Art and Linda Jacknowitz came to Morgantown 42 years ago and both are now retired from WVU. Art is professor emeritus and Arthur I. Jacknowitz Chair emeritus of Clinical Pharmacy at WVU. Linda was formerly director of West Virginia CONSULT at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, an online health information service for rural health professionals, and project director of Mountains of Hope, West Virginia’s statewide comprehensive cancer coalition. They remain active in many Morgantown area organizations, especially the Art Museum, where Art Jacknowitz is a docent and Linda is an active member of the Friends of the Art Museum.

“We wanted to set up this fund as a legacy for our niece Abby, because it brings together her love of art and also her profession—education,” Linda Jacknowitz said.

“Abby was a second grade special education teacher of children on the autistic spectrum in New York State and died much too young of metastatic cancer of unknown origin at the age of 30,” Art Jacknowitz said. “She had an extraordinary creative spirit that she brought to everything in the classroom. She was amazing at infusing art into her day-to-day curriculum.

“For example, Abby’s teaching assistant told us that she started off one year reading the story “Elmer the Patchwork Elephant,” which had a message about celebrating diversity. But Abby didn’t just read about celebrating diversity, she had each student create a patchwork elephant that represented his or her unique self. One child smeared the paint together instead of making patches, and Abby smiled and praised it anyway.

“Abby used art as an avenue for creativity, diversity, education, and, most importantly, acceptance,” Jacknowitz said.

Another lesson was on map skills, which tied in to understanding of the state of New York and its landforms. Instead of just having students look at maps or draw them on paper, Abby got mini pizza boxes and the students used clay to create their own topographical maps of the state. They created mountains and valleys and other landforms that many of them had never seen. Each map was infused with a different child’s personality. One student used traditional blue paint to show the bodies of water and another used hot pink, with sparkly gold for the mountains.

Students who visit the Art Museum of WVU create hands-on art projects similar to these after viewing the artworks in the museum’s galleries.

“During the past year, seeing the kids come into the museum and seeing their eyes light up when they see some of the artwork—that has been important to us,” Art Jacknowitz said. “It is the beginning of a lifelong dedication to the arts, such as Linda and I have had, and that is something we want to share with them.”

“We also want to express how happy we are to have the Art Museum of WVU as part of our community,” Linda Jacknowitz said. “We are thrilled that this wonderful resource is now in Morgantown.”

Since retiring in 2012, Art Jacknowitz has been a student mentor in the School of Pharmacy and a member of the school’s visiting committee. He is also a member of the WVU Faculty Senate, representing retired faculty, and serves as vice president of the board of the WVU Retirees Association Steering Committee.

Linda Jacknowitz retired in 2010 and since then was the founding chair for the American Cancer Society’s Patient Resource Center, located in the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. She also is a board member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at WVU.

Art and Linda Jacknowitz were also recently appointed as inaugural members of the Advisory Council of the Art Museum of WVU.

The Art and Linda Jacknowitz contribution to the Art Museum of WVU was made in conjunction with “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.” The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

There is now an online giving page for the Abby Robin Jacknowitz Travel Fund. To make a donation online, click on this link: