Exploring the Legacy of a San Antonio Culinary and Entrepreneurial Icon

Kowalski exhibit items

MARCH 18, 2024 — UTSA proudly celebrates Women's History Month with an exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of Rosemary Kowalski - an icon of San Antonio's hospitality industry. Attendees can get a glimpse into Rosemary's story through her photographs, recipes, appointment calendars and other personal mementos from her 70+ year career.

The exhibit which runs from March 18 – April 1 at the John L. Santikos Building Foyer at UTSA’s Southwest Campus is free and open to the public. An opening reception will be held March 18 at the Santikos Building and attendees are encouraged to RSVP.

Kowalski, a catering legend and native San Antonian, serves as Chairman Emeritus of The RK Group. Founded in the late eighties, the catering company has served hundreds of thousands of meals over more than 70 years at events featuring luminaries such as Pope John Paul II, Prince Charles, Billy Graham, Willie Nelson, and Grace Kelly. At nearly 100 years old, she is known as one of San Antonio's most successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs.

Curated by UTSA Libraries Special Collections, this year’s exhibit will be organized into three sections representing Kowalski’s life journey.

The first will delve into her personal life, showcasing photographs of her as a young woman, family snapshots, early menu agendas, initial catering gigs, staff appreciation events, and recipe cards.

The second will spotlight Rosemary’s catering services for first ladies Barbara Bush and Lady Bird Johnson, displaying photographs and keepsakes, including a complimentary letter from Johnson written shortly before her passing.

The final segment will highlight her work with VIPs and charitable endeavors, featuring newspaper clippings from events including the luncheon for Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to San Antonio, menus from the 1978 Chrysanthemum Ball, and the Texas State Senate proclamation honoring Kowalski as the recipient of the seventh annual Arthur O’Krent Humanitarian Award from the board of directors for Boysville.

“Rosemary’s legacy as a pioneering businesswoman, entrepreneur, culinary star, and civic leader is a vital part of San Antonio’s narrative,” said Amy Rushing, assistant vice provost of Special Collections. “We are honored to be custodians of her contributions and accomplishments, ensuring they are documented and preserved for future generations.”

Kowalski and The RK Group have supported the university for 32 years. Their generosity has impacted the Institute of Texan Cultures, the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, UTSA Athletics, the Alumni Association, President's Associates, and the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, where she created the Rosemary Kowalski Endowed Scholarship in 2002.

In 2017, she donated her personal and company records chronicling her journey as one of San Antonio's leading caterers to the UTSA Libraries.

Explore Further

More information can be found on UTSA’s Women’s History Month website.

Learn more about the UTSA Libraries Special Collections.