Ceremonial Events - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Humane Letters
Elie Wiesel will receive his honorary degree on Wednesday, April 25 during his speaking engagement at the University of Vermont.
Elie Wiesel was just a teenager when he and his family were interned in Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister would die. He and his father later were sent to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the concentration camp was liberated. Wiesel and his two older sisters survived, and the young man whom fate had saved began a life dedicated to peace and the defense of human rights. His teaching, writing, and storytelling have given voice to the silenced; his contributions have brought him awards from the United States, France, Britain and numerous universities in the United States, Europe, and Israel. The boy from Sighet, Transylvania (now part of Romania), who spoke Yiddish at home and was immersed in classical Hebrew in his religious studies, initially was reluctant to speak of his experiences, but eventually he became one of the Holocaust’s most articulate voices and a true world citizen.
At the urging of French writer Francois Mauriac, Wiesel, then a young, French journalist, wrote, in Yiddish, his first memoir, Un die welt hot geshvign (And the world kept silent). He later wrote a slim volume based on this in French, Night. Possibly his most widely read work, it has been translated into more than 30 languages, and millions of copies have been sold. Wiesel’s wife, Marion, has written a new, English translation, published last year.
Wiesel has written more than 50 books, which have garnered numerous, prestigious awards, including the Prix Medicis 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. The first volume of Wiesel’s memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea, was published in 1995; the second volume, And The Sea is Never Full, in 1999. His most recent novel, Un desir fou de danser, was published in France last year; an English translation will be published soon by Knopf.
An American citizen since 1963, Wiesel is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He has received many honors, including the United States Congressional Gold Medal (1985); 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 (2006). He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity in 1986, which has convened world leaders, Nobel Laureates, and young people to address urgent world issues.
A devoted supporter of Israel, Wiesel also has defended the causes of Soviet
Jews, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentina’s ‘disappeared,’
Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, and victims of apartheid, famine, and war.