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NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ELIE WIESEL TO SPEAK AT DECEMBER COMMENCEMENT

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Boston University professor Elie Wiesel will deliver the Old Dominion University commencement address at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, President Roseann Runte announced at the Sept. 11 Board of Visitors meeting. The 99th commencement program will be the third held in the new Ted Constant Convocation Center. Weisel will be awarded an honorary doctorate during the ceremony.

Wiesel's 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. His efforts have earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor, and in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.

"Dr. Wiesel is a fine scholar, a true humanist and a philosopher," said President Roseann Runte. "His message and his view of the world is particularly germane to Old Dominion University as we inaugurate a minor in Jewish Studies and as we celebrate the inaugural year of the activities of the Center for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding."

Wiesel has defended the cause of Soviet and Israeli Jews, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Argentina's "disappeared," Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, South African apartheid victims, famine victims in Africa and prisoners in the former Yugoslavia.

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980 he became founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Wiesel is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures. Three months after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel and his wife established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity 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.

Wiesel has written more than 40 books which have won numerous awards, including the Grand Prize for Literature from the city of Paris for "The Fifth Son." His two-volume memoir, "All Rivers Run to the Sea" and "And the Sea Is Never Full," was published in 1995 and 1999.

A native of Sighet, Transylvania, Wiesel and his family were deported by the Nazis to the Auschwitz concentration camp when he was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there, but his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.

After World War II, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist there, yet he remained silent about what he had endured and witnessed as an inmate in the death camps. During an interview with the French writer Francois Mauriac, Wiesel was persuaded to end his silence. He subsequently wrote "La Nuit" ("Night"), a terrifying account of his experiences in the Nazi death camps. Since its publication in 1958, the book has been translated into 30 languages, and millions of copies have been sold.

Wiesel was previously Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in the Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University.

This article was posted on: September 9, 2003

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