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Academy of Achievement Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski

Korczak* & Ruth Ziolkowski

Inducted 2004

Korczak (1908-1982) and Ruth Ziolkowski dedicated their lives to the creation of Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Honoring the Native American, the nonprofit educational and cultural project includes the colossal Crazy Horse mountain carving now in progress, the Indian Museum of North America and the planned Indian University of North America and Medical Training Center.

Many consider the colossal Crazy Horse mountain carving in progress to be one of the wonders of the modern world. When completed, the mountain memorial will depict for all ages Crazy Horse proclaiming, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

Korczak, the creator of Crazy Horse Memorial was completely self-taught. He never took a lesson in art, sculpture, architecture or engineering. At the invitation of the Lakota elders, Korczak in 1947 began Crazy Horse Memorial as a tribute to the Native American. The mountain carving is the largest sculptural undertaking the world has ever known.

The sculptor’s free enterprise financial philosophy prompted him to reject two offers of potential federal funding for the Memorial.

Born in Boston of Polish decent, Korczak carved his first marble at age 23. Moving to Connecticut, he became a well known New England sculptor. In 1939 his Italian marble won first prize by popular vote at the New York World’s Fair.

Korczak’s life and extensive sculpture have been honored in many ways, but often said his greatest satisfaction came for the army of grass roots support that was expressed during his decades of progress on Crazy Horse Memorial.

Ruth Ziolkowski is President of the Board of Directors and CEO of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, established in 1949 as the governing entity for Crazy Horse Memorial.

Ruth assumed leadership of the project following the 1982 death of her husband, Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Since then, she has directed all aspects of the progress at the Memorial both on and off the mountain carving. Ruth has also overseen the steady growth of the educational and cultural aspects of the humanitarian project. That includes the Crazy Horse Memorial Native American Scholarship Program primarily for students from the nine S.D. reservations.

Married in 1950, the Ziolkowski’s had five sons and five daughters, many of whom now work as a dynamic team to continue the steady growth and progress at Crazy Horse Memorial.

Accepting the award on behalf of her mother and late father is Jadwiga Ziolkowski, the second oldest daughter whom her father delivered the night she was born at the Memorial. Jadwiga, a working mother of five school-aged children including a set of twins, is involved in all aspects of the day-to-day operation of the Memorial including management of the sprawling visitor complex which hosts more than one million visitors annually. Jadwiga is also a member of the board of directors of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

*Deceased member