Holocaust Survivor To Give Inaugural Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture During Annual CU-Boulder Diversity Summit

Published: Feb. 10, 2008

A woman who narrowly survived Nazi labor camps and a 350-mile death march before meeting the U.S. soldier who would liberate her - and later marry her - will talk about hope, redemption and tolerance at the University of Colorado at Boulder's 13th annual Diversity Summit.

Holocaust survivor and Academy Award Winner Gerda Weissmann Klein, an acclaimed educator and author of eight books, will be the inaugural speaker for the Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture Series at this year's summit, which takes place on Monday, Feb. 18, and Tuesday, Feb. 19. The summit's theme is "Learning From Our Past to Build a Better Future." All events will take place at the University Memorial Center, or UMC, and are free and open to students, faculty, staff and the general public.

"We are so honored to have Gerda Klein with us," said Sallye McKee, CU-Boulder's vice chancellor for diversity, equity and community engagement. "Mrs. Klein's harrowing and triumphant experiences remind us of the truest purposes of the Diversity Summit: to continue the struggle to fully enfranchise all who live at the margins of our society and to eliminate the barriers and human choices that place them there."

CU-Boulder hosts the summit each year to underscore the importance of respect, tolerance and acceptance of all human diversity, whether those differences be based on physical appearance, ability or disability, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political ideology. Over the past 12 years, members of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (CACMA) have created a campus tradition that has helped to transform the campus community's understanding of diversity. The summit will occur as the university prepares to mark Black History Month and Holocaust Awareness Week in February and Women's History Month in March.

Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson, McKee and other campus officials will introduce guests and address students, faculty, staff and the general public during the two-day summit. Other events will include a student panel on diversity, an interactive theater presentation and a reception.

"I want to encourage our entire university community to attend this important series of workshops and events," Peterson said. "Ethnic, gender, intellectual and geographic/socio-economic diversity are integral to higher education and our mission, and as such, comprise one of our core values. The Diversity Summit is a time for the University of Colorado at Boulder to reaffirm our commitment and improve our community."

Klein's keynote address, "One Survivor Remembers," will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the UMC Ballroom, and is based on a 1995 Emmy and Academy Award-winning documentary about her life. She will speak about her harrowing ordeal in Nazi labor camps, the death march alongside thousands of other condemned youths and her marriage and love affair with the American G.I. whose heart she captured during the 1945 liberation of war prisoners. Klein weighed only 68 pounds when American soldiers freed her and 120 other young women.

Well known for her work to reduce bigotry and hunger, Klein is credited with inspiring healing after speaking to survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. She and her husband founded the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, and designed a tolerance curriculum for the Southern Poverty Law Center that has benefited more than 10 million students across the nation.

Her appearance is being made possible by CU Leeds School of Business board members Michael Leeds and John Fischer.

Other guest speakers will include Colorado Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, who will participate in a discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the UMC Ballroom, and Joseph C. Silva, a University of California, Davis retired professor and psychologist who will talk about disabilities and the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18, in the UMC Ballroom.

For a complete Diversity Summit schedule, visit www.colorado.edu/CU-diversity/summit.html.