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March 25, 2008


President Williams to Confer Upon Wiesel Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters

NEW YORK, March 25, 2008 –Elie Wiesel, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, will deliver the Inaugural President’s Lecture at The City College of New York (CCNY) Wednesday, April 9. Prior to the lecture, Dr. Gregory H. Williams, President of The City College, will confer upon Professor Wiesel, who taught at CCNY from 1972 to 1976, the honorary degree, Doctor of Letters. 

The degree presentation will take place at 5 p.m. in The Great Hall of Shepard Hall, followed by the lecture, titled “Confronting Fanaticism: Building a Moral Unity in a Diverse Society,” at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“Elie Wiesel has spent much of his adult life working on behalf of oppressed people everywhere,” said President Williams. “We honor him for building on his personal experience of living through the Holocaust to use his talents as an author, teacher and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world.”

Born an Orthodox Jew in a small town in Transylvania, Professor Wiesel was 15 when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz, the most infamous Nazi death camp, where his mother and two younger sisters perished. He and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died before the camp was liberated in 1945.

After the end of World War II, Professor Wiesel studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he later became a journalist. Like many survivors of the death camps, he remained silent about what he had endured. However, François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature, who would become Professor Wiesel’s close friend, persuaded him to break that silence.

“Night,” Professor Wiesel’s 109-page memoir of his experiences during the Holocaust and his loss of faith in God, originally written in French, has been translated into more than 30 languages and has sold millions of copies.  It is considered one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature, along with Primo Levi’s “If This Is a Man” and Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”  A new English-language edition with translation by Professor Wiesel’s wife, Marion, published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, was named by Oprah Winfrey as a selection for “Oprah’s Book Club.”

Professor Wiesel, who subsequently moved to the United States and became a citizen in 1963, has written more than 40 books, both fiction and non-fiction. These include “Dawn” and “Day,” two novels that, together with “Night,” comprise a trilogy about the Holocaust.

From 1972 to 1976, Professor Wiesel was Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at The City College of New York. In 1976, he became the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities at Boston University, where he holds the title of University Professor and is a member of the Department of Religion as well as the Department of Philosophy.

During his career, he has spoken out on behalf of: Israel; Soviet and Ethiopian Jews; victims of Apartheid in South Africa; Argentina’s Desaparecidos; victims of genocide in Bosnia; Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, and the Kurds. One of his current projects involves finding refuge for children from Darfur.

Professor Wiesel received the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy to end violence, repression and racism. Three months after receiving the award, Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.  Its mission is to advance the cause of human rights and peace throughout the world by creating a new forum for the discussion of urgent ethical issues confronting humankind.

Other awards to Professor Wiesel include: the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, 1985; the Medal of Liberty Award,1986; the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1992; the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor, 2001), and an honorary Knighthood of the British Empire awarded by Her Majesty, the Queen in 2006.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.