The Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation

memorial art gallery centennial

The Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation

Story Walk, which borders the Memorial Art Gallery’s Centennial Sculpture Park, is supported by a major gift from the Louis S. & Molly B. Wolk Foundation. Founded in the late 1980s, the Foundation is named for Louis Wolk, a prominent Rochester real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, and his wife, Molly, an active volunteer in the community. The foundation supports educational, cultural, healthcare and social programs in the Rochester area. 

The Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation has a long history in the Rochester area dating back to the 1890s, when Samuel and Celia Wolk immigrated here. They had four sons—Ernie, the oldest; Ben; Louis; and Paul, the youngest. The family beginnings were very humble, but all the boys were hardworking entrepreneurs. They had many business ventures together, including the Wolk Brothers DeSoto Plymouth Dealership, predecessor of Wolk’s City Plymouth. During World War II they purchased an awning company and turned it into a tent and parachute manufacturing plant for the government.

Louis WolkMolly B. WolkLouis was involved in real estate beginning in his early twenties and joined his brother Paul in 1957 as a partner in the construction and development of Rochester’s first high rise apartment building, 1600 East Avenue. The building featured state-of-the art amenities that were new to Rochester.

Louis and his wife, Molly, who was originally from Syracuse, were very active in the Rochester community. They were longtime members of Irondequoit Country Club. They both enjoyed golfing, boating and fishing.

Louis was known as “Uncle Louie” to his relatives, but to his close friends, who knew about his love of smashed potatoes, he was “Smash.”

Molly volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the former Genesee Hospital. Her nurse’s uniform is on display at the Louis S. & Molly B. Wolk Center for Excellence in Nursing at Monroe Community College. Louis and Molly lived in the penthouse at 1600 East Avenue, where the Wolk Foundation’s offices are now located.

Louis stated that he wanted his foundation donor dollars given back to the community— after all, that is where it came from. In a nod to his humble beginnings, his charity was quiet, but it had a tremendous impact. Louis, along with his brother Paul, donated money to erect the Wolk building attached to the former Genesee Hospital, which was dedicated to their father, Samuel. Louis, ever the businessman, never really retired. He was able to witness some of the greatness that he made possible by his philanthropy.

Following Louis’s death in 1994, the Foundation expanded its reach into the community. All of the trustees—Alvin L. Ureles, M.D., David M. Wolk, Marvin L. Wolk, Jeremy J. Wolk, Harold Samloff and Michael B. Berger—are family and friends who understand the vision of Louis and Molly. The Foundation continues to make a difference in the Rochester community.