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Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Supports Endowed Chair with Estate-Plan Gift

Photo of statues on campus.Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko, ’86 (Hon.), was a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who lived in Arlington, Virginia. She was introduced to Niagara University by her friend, 1951 NU alumnus Jim Keenan.

Born in Fulda, Germany, in 1919, Rose Saeman was the youngest of 12 children. She developed a talent for decorating and dress designing at the Marian School in Fulda. She immigrated to the United States in the 1930s.

Rose married Raymond H. Bente, a successful entrepreneur, and she used her talent as a designer and her love of fabrics and fashion to open The Sewing Shop, which was located in Washington, D.C. The business grew substantially and was eventually renamed The House of Fine Fabrics, later becoming a corporation that included 17 stores. After the death of her husband, Rose ran the fabric stores until she sold them in 1978 to Fabri-Center of America.

In 1986 Niagara University presented Rose with an honorary doctor of humane letters. Rose had been a longtime supporter of Niagara and, in 1992, informed Niagara of her estate intention. The Rev. Francis X. Prior, C.M., who previously served as NU’s vice president for institutional advancement, worked closely with Rose over the years and maintained a genuine friendship with her.

Rose was predeceased by two other husbands, the Hon. Robert E. Lee, a former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, and Rear Adm. William M. Ostapenko.

Rose passed away in July 2014. A portion of her estate was designated to fund an endowment supporting ethics and other endowed needs as determined by Niagara. The memory of Rose and her name will live on in perpetuity at Niagara University.

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