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1995-1996 index

Distributed August 18, 1995
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

232nd Opening Convocation

Elie Wiesel will deliver Convocation address at Brown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will be the keynote speaker at Brown University's 232nd Opening Convocation ceremony, 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, on the College Green. The entire Brown community and the general public are invited to the ceremony. Wiesel's lecture is titled "The Passion for Learning."

Opening Convocation will begin with an academic procession of undergraduates, faculty and administrators. The University's Van Wickle Gates, newly refurbished and reinstalled at the intersection of College and Prospect streets, will open inward so that the approximately 1,400 members of the Class of 1999 may enter for the ceremonies on the College Green. (The Van Wickle Gates are opened twice each year: inward in the fall to admit first-year students and outward in May to mark the departure of graduating seniors.) Once the procession has reached its destination on the College Green, Brown President Vartan Gregorian will declare the 1995-96 academic year officially open and will introduce Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel has worked on behalf of oppressed people for much of his adult life. His personal experience of the Holocaust has led him to use his talents as an author, teacher and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world. Wiesel's efforts have earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, the rank of Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor, and in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received more than 75 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.

President Jimmy Carter appointed him in 1978 as chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust, and later as founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Wiesel is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures.

His more than 35 books have won numerous awards, including the Prix Médicis for A Beggar in Jerusalem, the Prix Livre Inter for The Testament and the Grand Prize for Literature from the City of Paris for The Fifth Son. Wiesel's most recent books published in the United States are A Passover Haggadah, Sages and Dreamers, and his latest novel, The Forgotten. The first volume of his memoirs, Tous les fleuves vont à la mer, was published in Paris in the fall of 1994 and will be available in English when published by Knopf this fall.

Natives of Sighet, Transylvania (Romania), Wiesel and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz when Wiesel was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there; his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald.

After the war, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist in that city, yet he remained silent about what he had endured as an inmate in the death camps. During an interview with the French writer François Mauriac, Wiesel was persuaded to end that silence. He subsequently wrote La Nuit (Night). Since its publication in 1958, La Nuit has been translated into 25 languages.

A devoted supporter of Israel, Wiesel has defended the cause of Soviet Jewry, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Argentina's "disappeared," Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, South African apartheid victims, famine victims in Africa, and recently the victims and prisoners in the former Yugoslavia.

Three months after he received the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel and his wife, Marion, 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 humanity.

The first major project undertaken by the foundation was an international conference of Nobel laureates convened jointly by Elie Wiesel and French President François Mitterrand. Seventy-nine laureates from five continents met in January 1988 in Paris to explore issues and questions related to the conference theme, "Facing the 21st Century: Threats and Promises."

This was followed by conferences on "The Anatomy of Hate," first in Boston, co-sponsored by Boston University (1989); in Haifa, co-sponsored by Haifa University (1990); in Oslo, co-sponsored by the Norwegian Nobel Committee (1990); and in Moscow, co-sponsored by Ogonyok Magazine (1991). In November 1992, a conference on "The Anatomy of Hate: Saving Our Children," co-sponsored by Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, was held at New York University.

Wiesel has been the Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-1976), and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in the Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-1983). Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University where he also holds the title of University Professor. He is a member of the faculty in the Department of Religion as well as the Department of Philosophy.

An American citizen since 1963, Wiesel lives in New York with his wife and son.