News & Events

May 20, 2022

Joseph Kirkish enriches the lives of others

By imparting his passion, interests, education and talents

There are many people that contribute to our community in ways that are memorable and make this a unique place to call home. Some, by their very presence, have established themselves as part of the fabric that makes up the character of this community.

Joe KirkishFor decades, Joseph Kirkish, PhD, (Joey, as he is called by his friends) has done his part to impart his passions, interests, education, and talents towards enriching others’ lives and making this a more vibrant place to call home. Kirkish is known for many things including his time as a professor at Michigan Tech, and advising one of the local fraternities since its inception. He was the genesis behind our local Minnesota Public Radio station so many years ago. Some of you may know that he served for years as a youth counselor at a Jewish boys Summer Camp in Wisconsin. As a young man, he served this country and is a veteran of World War II. Over the years, perhaps you may have been blessed to catch one of his funny and entertaining puppets shows.

In recent years, Kirkish contributes his time reading stories to the elderly; and showing, sharing and critiquing “his” films in a way that only he can. Since he was a young man, he has offered insights to how wonderful and exciting he sees the world around him through the lens of his camera and the display of his photography. You might even enjoy his musings which are shared through his periodic contributions to the local newspaper. And Kirkish is known through his charity and financial giving. He has helped support so many organizations around the world to do their part in helping others achieve a better life.

Kirkish will tell you that since he was a young boy, traveling with his father through the rural parts of our community selling housewares, food staples and other offerings from their mercantile, that he has always wanted to be a “Philanthropist.” “I don’t think I really understood what that meant at the time, but I’ve always thought that I have what I need; so why not use what I have to help others?!” Kirkish has considered that this desire to give back is as much a part of his Lebanese culture as it is the experience of witnessing his father doing what he could to help his neighbors in times of struggle. This guidance and these experiences instilled in him the idea of “giving” without expectation of anything in return. The Nobelist of ideas: to share of oneself to enrich others’ lives.

Over the past few years, Kirkish had requested help from Portage Health Foundation to identify local needs and facilitate his charitable gifts to local organizations that could benefit from his assistance and support. Since 2018, Kirkish’s contributions, combined with other funds his contributions have leveraged, has resulted in $406,000 dollars being expended to support local literacy, mental and behavioral health initiatives, environmental conservation, outdoor education for youth and scholarships – to name a few things the donations have done. These gifts have empowered the wide variety of organizations to better serve the community. These gifts have changed the lives of many people in our community.

On behalf of all the lives and all the people these gifts have touched, PHF would like to say thank you Joey, for imparting your unique gifts and making this a better, healthier community.