Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Cincinnati, will hold its graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 3, 2004 at the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Amberley Village at 8:00 p.m. with Rabbi David Ellenson, president of HUC-JIR, conferring degrees. Professor Bill T. Arnold (Ph.D., HUC-JIR, 1985) of Asbury Theological Seminary will deliver the address. Honorary doctor of humane letters degrees will be granted to Edwin Rigaud and Marge Piercy.
Edwin Rigaud, a local Cincinnatian, is the president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Currently, he is a member of the National Museum Services Board, the Ohio Board of Regents, the Board of Directors of NextGen Corp., the Board of Directors of Gamebanc, CincinnatiCan, the Board of Trustees of the New Ohio Institute, the Junior League of Cincinnati Advisory Council, the Board of Trustees at Xavier University, Trustee Emeritus of the National Conference for Community and Justice, the Metropolitan Growth Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the Ohio River Corridor Committee, the Board of Directors of Queen City Club, and the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Club. Rigaud is a member of numerous clubs and has received many awards.
Marge Piercy is a novelist, poet, essayist, reviewer, and consultant. She has given readings, conducted workshops, and lectured at over 300 institutions, colleges, and universities both in the United States and outside the country. She received numerous prizes and honors, has given major lectures and keynote speeches, and has been involved in festivals, workshops, and benefits. She is a member of several professional organizations and has written works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She is the author of 16 collections of poetry including The Art of Blessing the day: Poems with a Jewish Theme and Colors Passing Through Us. In 2001, Leapfrog Press published So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and the Personal Narrative, co-authored with Ira Wood. Her memoir, Sleeping with Cats came out in paperback in January 2003. Her novels include Gone to Soldiers, He, She, and It, and Three Women. Harper Collins published her sixteenth novel, The Third Child, in November 2003.
Doctor of philosophy degrees will be granted to Sherry Walton Kingston, Scott Allan Swanson, and Daniel Rodney Watson. In the school of graduate studies, Jesse Arnold Bankhead, Brian Todd Bernius, Elaine Asher Bernius, Javier Eduardo Cattapan, Michael Wesley Graves, Kyle Ruel Greenwood, Christopher Richard Jero, Christopher Forrest Morgan, David Lee Palmer, and Kenneth C. Way will receive master of philosophy in Hebraic and cognate studies degrees. Rabbinical students, Daniel Joshua Fellman, Leah M. Herz, Scott Myron Nagel, Benjamin Aaron Sharff, and Michael Aaron Sommer will receive a degree of master of arts in Hebrew letters leading to rabbinical ordination, and Adam Carter McCollum will receive a master of arts degree.
As part of the commencement activities of the College-Institute, Daniel Libeskind, B.Arch. M.A. BDA, will receive the 2004 Bernard Heller Prize at the graduation ceremony. This is the first time the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize will be awarded to an individual from the arts. Libeskind is an international figure in architectural practice and urban design. The Dr. Bernard Heller Prize is an international award presented annually to an individual or organization whose work, writings, or research reflects the values and commitment to the betterment of humanity.
A second honor will be bestowed upon Dr. John Withers, who will receive the HUC-JIR Presidents’ Medal in recognition of the courage and compassion he exhibited during World War II. The College-Institute in cooperation with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has resolved to acknowledge these acts of kindness by conferring the Presidents’ Medal upon Withers during the commencement ceremonies.
Rescuing individuals from the desolation Hitler induced is not unfamiliar to the College-Institute. Between 1934 and 1945, Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati brought over eight renowned Jewish scholars who were victims of Nazi persecution, employed an additional three who had managed to enter the U.S. by other means, and spearheaded a rescue plan for a twelfth prominent academician in cooperation with three other Jewish institutions. Furthermore, HUC-JIR brought over eight German rabbinical students and conferred its own ordination on several refugee rabbis already ordained in Europe to help them start their rabbinates in America. For those already outside the German sphere, HUC-JIR revived or launched their careers in the United States. For some inside the German sphere, HUC-JIR saved their lives.