Wagner College mourns the passing earlier today of Dr. Elie Wiesel H’12, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize as well as an honorary doctorate from Wagner College.
“Elie Wiesel was one of this world’s moral beacons,” said Wagner College President Richard Guarasci. “He was a steadfast moral witness against genocide. I was in his presence four times, including the day when he addressed our commencement program, and I can tell you that it was an experience I will never forget. The world is a richer place for his passing through it.”
Watch Dr. Wiesel’s 2012 commencement address:
Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, which is now part of Romania. He was 15 years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished, but his two older sisters survived. Elie and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.
After the war, Elie Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. During an interview with the distinguished French writer, Francois Mauriac, he was persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps. The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, “Night (La Nuit),” which has since been translated into more than 30 languages.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Elie Wiesel as chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He was president of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization he and his wife created to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice. Wiesel received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning, including Wagner College.
A devoted supporter of Israel, Elie Wiesel also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentina’s desaparecidos, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, victims of famine and genocide in Africa and of apartheid in South Africa, and victims of war in the former Yugoslavia. For more than 15 years, Elie and his wife Marion were especially devoted to the cause of Ethiopian-born Israeli youth through the Wiesel Foundation’s Beit Tzipora Centers for Study and Enrichment.
Teaching was always central to Elie Wiesel’s work. Since 1976, he was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also held the title of university professor. He was a member of the faculty in the Department of Religion as well as the Department of Philosophy. Previously, he served as Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-76) and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-83).
Elie Wiesel was the author of more than 50 books of fiction and non-fiction, including “A Beggar in Jerusalem” (Prix Médicis winner), “The Testament” (Prix du Livre Inter winner), “The Fifth Son” (winner of the Grand Prize in Literature from the City of Paris), two volumes of his memoirs, “All Rivers Run to the Sea” and “And the Sea is Never Full,” and most recently “The Sonderberg Case.”
For his literary and human rights activities, he received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the National Humanities Medal, the Medal of Liberty and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor. In 1986, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Soon thereafter, Marion and Elie Wiesel established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.