UT celebrates 100th birthday of humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg with exhibit

August 16, 2012 | Events, UToday
By Samantha Watson

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, in The University of Toledo’s Carlson Library, there will be an exhibit displaying the life of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved nearly 100,000 Jews during World War II.


The exhibit will open at noon, with a reception for this year’s UT Raoul Wallenberg Award scholarship recipient, Carolina Wishner, as well as acknowledgement of Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, professor emeritus of surgery in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, for his lifetime of teaching and research.

Wallenberg would have turned 100 years old Aug. 4. The Swede undertook a mission at the behest of the U.S. War Refugee Board to go to Budapest in 1944 and saved tens of thousands of Jews by giving them documents that identified them as Swedish nationals. He was arrested by the advancing Soviet Army in January 1945 and was never seen free again.

This centennial exhibit is to celebrate both his life and the thousands of lives that he saved, and will feature art and research from two UT students: Michael Gammo, a junior in the Honors College studying biology, and Alyssa Brown, a senior studying new media.

“It was really inspiring to see the kind of impact that one person can make on other people’s lives,” Brown said. “If he can save 100,000, well, I hope I can save one.”

Gammo began researching the historic hero during the spring semester, reading biographies and using references such as Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“I’m not a big history buff,” Gammo said. “But once you start getting into the story, you really just want to keep reading more and you want to find out why he did this.”

Gammo has several research grants, including a First-Year Summer Research Experience grant in 2010 and a Sullivan grant from the Honors College for research during summer 2011. Both grants were for biology research.

“We needed a person with creative talents to start putting this together,” Gammo said. “That’s when Alyssa Brown was kind enough to offer her services in helping us make it visually appealing and not just boring, science fair-looking posters.”

With the help of Brown, the exhibit will offer posters of facts, pictures and artifacts depicting the life of Wallenberg. It also will feature a sculpture made by Brown, inspired by what Wallenberg accomplished in his lifetime. It will be made of reclaimed wood and 10,000 nails to represent the 100,000 lives that he rescued.

“This is my first time doing as large of a show as this, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it all come to fruition,” Brown said.

The accompanying reception will highlight Wishner, who received the scholarship after a lifetime of service to others; she assisted the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and also helped create a 911 system in her home country of Panama.

In addition, Robert Karp, who made the original donation for the scholarship, will honor the work of Hussain, a retired thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon. A member of the UT Board of Trustees, Hussain was a faculty member for more than 30 years at the former Medical College of Ohio.

“The scholarship is given to someone who exemplifies the characteristics that Wallenberg had, and they really are characteristics that students should strive to imitate — not just for the sake of getting a scholarship, but because of a sense of moral obligation,” Gammo said. “Doing what’s right just because it’s right is something that we really need a lot more of.”

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