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Prof. Armin H. Koller and Katherine Schlesinger Koller

Prof. Armin H. Koller and Katherine Schlesinger Koller

Professor Armin H. Koller and his beloved wife Katherine Schlesinger Koller served a significant role in Hillel’s history during their time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Prof. Koller was born in Komjáti, Hungary in 1878 and immigrated to the United States with his family as a child. He earned his bachelors and master’s degrees from Western Reserve University and his PhD from the University of Chicago. For a short period, Koller worked at Butler College in Indianapolis as Assistant Professor of German. He came to the University of Illinois in 1910, assuming an assistant position in German. By 1919 he was promoted to an Associate Professor. Along with a series of scholarly articles, Professor Koller wrote books including The Theory of the Environment and The Abbé du Bos – His Advocacy of the Theory of Climate. In 1929, Koller published a translation of the German Foundations of Jewish Ethics

In 1912 Armin married Katherine Schlesinger. They had three daughters: Ruth, Elizabeth and Edna. 

Armin and Katherine were involved with Hillel since its inception. In December 1923, a month after Hillel’s formal opening, Dr. and Mrs. Koller are listed as chaperones to Hillel’s social event alongside Leonard Lewis and Mr and Mrs Isaac Kuhn.

They were also heavily involved with Sinai Temple and acted as connectors between campus and the local religious community. On October 2nd 1934 the Daily Illini reported that Armin Koller spoke alongside Dr. A. L. Sachar at a special reception for Rabbi and Mrs Morris Kertzer, sponsored by the Sinai Temple Sisterhood. 

Katherine and Armin were constants in all three pillars of the Champaign-Urbana Jewish community – local religious community of Sinai Temple, the Jewish faculty including Abram Sachar (who later became the founding President of Brandeis University) and others, and the Jewish student population. Their work to bring all these subgroups together still bears fruit today, through ongoing cooperation among Hillel, Sinai Temple, Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation and the UIUC Program on Jewish Studies. 

In the coming months we aim to raise $36,000 in their memory to Hillel’s Centennial Endowment Fund at the Champaign Urbana Jewish Endowment Foundation. Upon reaching this goal, we would designate a Hillel communications internship as the Armin H. and Katherine Schlesinger Koller Internship.

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