Published: March 16, 1999

Elie Wiesel announced as MSU spring convocation speaker

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Elie Wiesel - Nobel laureate, human rights advocate and world-renowned Jewish scholar - will be Michigan State University's 1999 spring convocation speaker.

Wiesel will participate in the graduation ceremony on Friday, May 7, at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Wiesel, whose personal experience of the Holocaust has led him to espouse the cause of human rights and defend peace throughout the world, will address undergraduates at the campuswide convocation at 1 p.m.

"Elie Wiesel, through his work, immense insight and unbelievable life experiences, is one of this century's true guiding lights," said MSU President Peter McPherson. "It is a tremendous honor, one that speaks highly of this university, to have Wiesel as our undergraduate convocation speaker."

Wiesel has a long history of working toward peace. A devoted supporter of Israel, Wiesel has also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Argentina's "disappeared," Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, South African apartheid victims, famine victims in Africa, and more recently, the victims and prisoners in the former Yugoslavia.

"Commencement is a time of celebration, reflection and reaffirmation of hopes, values and the resolve to use education wisely for both private and public good," said Provost Lou Anna K. Simon. "Our students are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Elie Wiesel. He is a person who eloquently advocates ideals, imparts wisdom through his words and demonstrates values, courage and compassion through his actions."

Born on Sept. 30, 1928 in Sighet, Romania, Wiesel and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz when he was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there, and his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.

Following World War II, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist there. After years of silence about his experiences in the concentration camps, Wiesel wrote "Night." Since its publication in 1958, "Night" has been translated into 25 languages and millions of copies have been sold.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust and 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.

His efforts have earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award; Four Freedoms Award; Ellis Island Medal of Honor; the rank of grand officer in the French Legion of Honor; and in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received more than 90 honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.

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 Elie Wiesel Foundation has held several international conferences which explore peace efforts across the globe. The first major project undertaken by the foundation was a conference of Nobel laureates convened jointly by Wiesel and French President Francois Mitterrand. The 79 laureates from five continents met in January 1988 in Paris to explore issues related to the conference theme, "Facing the 21st Century: Threats and Promises."

Wiesel has written more than 40 books which 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." He is also the recipient of the International Literary Prize for Peace and two National Jewish Book Awards.

He also serves on a number of boards of directors, trustees, governors and advisers, including the International Rescue Committee, American Jewish World Service, Yad Vashem, Mutual of America Life Insurance Company, AmeriCares and the U.S. Committee for Refugees.

Wiesel has been Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-76) and the Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in the Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-83). Since 1976, Wiesel has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University.

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