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RACF Honors Local Leaders for Their Charitable Giving

Dr. Walter Cooper

The Rochester Area Community Foundation recognized two community leaders and one family for their charitable contributions.

The Robert and Jane Stevens family and Eric Zeller were honored with  the organization's 2013 Philanthropy Award during its annual luncheon at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Wednesday.

Dr. Walter Cooper received the Joe U. Posner Founders Award, which is the foundation's highest honor.

Cooper says the recognition confirms what his parents instilled in him at a young age.

"That education is the transformative element in the lives of an individual."

Cooper is a former New York State Regent, education activist and a Community Foundation founding board member.

"Once you are an educator, you are compelled, morally compelled, to use that education for the benefit of others and the benefit of a community," Cooper says.

Eric Zeller has a mission to help at-risk students attend college. So he set up a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation.

Eric Zeller

"We're acknowledging the fact that we've got some kids that are going to college, that have been to college, and they are graduating. We're doing some really good things for the city of Rochester that I’m real happy about."

Zeller says his philanthropic spirit came from his father, who paid for a handful of teens to go to college. The family of Robert and the late Jane Stevens has served as role models for giving, individually and collectively. The Stevens' youngest daughter, Ann, says making a difference in the community is part of the family's legacy.

"It's a terrific honor. We don't really think much about our contributions to the community, financially or actively, so for the Community Foundation to find us and decide to give us this honor was kind of a surprise."

Robert and the late Jane Stevens

The Muriel H Marshall Fund Planning team and the Genesee County Office for the Aging were also recognized for their 15-year partnership with the Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation's assets reached an all-time high of $271 million this year.

More than 600 guests attended the sold-out luncheon.