President Fenves Honored by Holocaust Museum Houston

On Thursday at the Hilton Americas-Houston, the Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) presented their 2017 Guardian of the Human Spirit award to The University of Texas at Austin and President Greg Fenves. Hundreds of Longhorns, Houstonians, and other supporters attended the luncheon, which raised $700,000 for the museum. In a city buzzing from a World Series Championship the evening before, spirits were high. President Fenves joked that he was wearing a burnt-orange tie not only for UT, but for the Astros as well. “The motto ‘Houston Strong’ is not just a couple of words,” he said, “but a way of life in this great city.”

After a traditional Jewish blessing of the bread by Rabbi Brian Strauss and Fr. Donald S. Nesti, Chair of HMH Gary Markowitz, spoke to the strong connection between the museum and UT Austin. “Education is a pillar of the museum’s mission,” he said. The institutions have a long history of collaboration, including the HMH’s Warren Fellowship for Future Teachers, which was created in 2002 as a six-day, all-expenses- paid intensive training program for future teachers on issues related to the Holocaust, human rights, and genocide.

Institutions like UT Austin and the HMH are important, said Fenves in his acceptance speech, because they help to make sense of intersections. The goal of both places, he said, is “To educate, to understand, to enlighten and to bring people together with diverse perspectives and backgrounds so that we may improve lives for present and future generations.”

The award was deeply personal for the UT president, who spoke candidly to a rapt audience and told the harrowing story of his father, a Holocaust survivor:

As president of UT—seeing our students create their own stories on the Forty Acres—you will rarely find me talking about myself … But upon receiving this honor on behalf of The University of Texas at Austin, I feel a need to speak more personally than I am used to …We are living through a time when our nation is experiencing acts—even movements—fueled by hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-gay sentiments, and discrimination towards immigrants on college campuses and in our communities … Too many people do not understand what hatred can lead to—especially organized, legitimized hatred. That is why we must remember. Remember through our stories. So today, I want to tell you a story. A story that helps define who I am, and a story about our nation—my father’s story.

Read the full text of President Greg Fenves’ speech here, and see highlights of the day from Twitter below.


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