Nearly 300 supporters of The University of Texas at Dallas’ Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies gathered recently to honor and congratulate former provost and executive vice president Dr. Hobson Wildenthal for his role in creating and growing the groundbreaking center.
Wildenthal, who currently serves as distinguished scholar in residence and professor of physics, received the inaugural Edward M. Ackerman Leadership Award on Nov. 17 during the Ackerman Center Leadership Dinner.
“Without Dr. Wildenthal, the Ackerman Center, as we know it today, simply wouldn’t exist,” said Eddie Ackerman, son of founding donor Edward M. Ackerman and advisory board member. “I can think of no one more deserving to be the first recipient of this award. And I know that my father would certainly approve.”
Working with community supporters and Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, a Hungarian-Jewish Holocaust survivor and the Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas, Wildenthal led efforts to grow the Holocaust Studies Program, which was created in 1986. Edward Ackerman and his wife, Wilhelmina, made the lead gift in 2006 that named the Ackerman Center.
In accepting the award, Wildenthal downplayed his early efforts on behalf of the program, saying he was just doing his job as provost of the University. But he acknowledged the personal gratification he has received from working with the center.
“Doing this particular job turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he said. “The education I received from Zsuzsanna and the great intellectuals who visited UT Dallas for the Burton C. Einspruch Lecture Series has been of immense personal value to me. I feel that I should have been paying tuition all these years, rather than being honored.”
For more than three decades, the Ackerman Center has developed an international reputation for the diversity of its academic and outreach programs that enable the center to initiate and promote broadly based study units of the Holocaust, bringing invaluable educational, intellectual and ethical insights to UT Dallas students as well as to the larger North Texas community.
In his dinner remarks, James B. Milliken, chancellor of the UT System, emphasized the importance of the Ackerman Center to the UT System and to the world.
“The Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies is one of the crown jewels in the UT System. It’s one of only two places in the U.S. where you can take graduate-level courses in Holocaust studies and is a source of great pride for me and everyone associated with the UT System,” he said. “But it is my hope, paradoxically perhaps, that over time it will become if not less special, a little less unusual, because the world needs more Holocaust education.”
Dr. Nils Roemer, director of the Ackerman Center, interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies, said the Ackerman Dinner was a wonderful opportunity to honor Wildenthal, meet with center supporters and to celebrate the work of the center.
“It takes visionary leadership, bright minds and generous supporters to create an organization such as the Ackerman Center,” he said. “I am confident that this assembly will accomplish much more in the years ahead.”