Wednesday, April 6, 2011

[UPDATE] Elie Wiesel Announced as Wash. U.'s Commencement Speaker

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 1:42 PM

click to enlarge Wiesel - IMAGE VIA

The Washington University class of 2011 and their parents can breathe a sigh of relief on graduation day, Friday, May 20. Though the job market still isn't great, their $200,000 investment (the cost of four years of tuition) has partially paid off: They are going to have a really, really famous commencement speaker. After several years of relative unknowns -- Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, Secretary of Energy and St. Louis native Steven Chu -- this year Wash. U. has scored a blockbuster: Elie Wiesel.

Wiesel, of course, is the author of the Holocaust memoir Night, among many other books, a professor at Boston University and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

"I am deeply honored that Elie Wiesel has agreed to deliver the Commencement address to this year's graduates," said Wash. U. chancellor Mark Wrighton. "Professor Wiesel is a remarkable scholar who has dedicated his life to promoting peace. I am confident that his message will serve as an inspiration to our outstanding graduates."

Wiesel, a native of Transylvania, was deported to Auschwitz when he was fifteen years old. He was the only member of his family to survive. Most of his work is about the Holocaust, but he's also written on behalf of victims of other genocides.

If nothing else, maybe Wiesel's story will remind everybody that there are worse fates in life than dodging calls from student loan collectors.

Update after the jump...

Update 2:30: Daily RFT just got off the phone with Wash. U. spokeswoman Sue McGinn, who tells us that the public is strongly discouraged from coming to hear Wiesel speak.

"We have 14,500 chairs set up in Brookings Quad," she says, "and those are usually filled to capacity with standing room only. We wouldn't turn anyone away, but [commencement] is really for the family and friends of the graduates. Besides, if anybody wanted to come, they would have to put up with the traffic outside the university that morning."

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