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Shoah Visual History Archive Now Available as Study Resource at Ferris State University

Ferris State UniversityThrough the generosity of Detroit-area businessman and real estate developer Mickey Shapiro, the child of Holocaust survivors who began his college career at Ferris State University, Ferris has acquired access to the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive.

With the acquisition, Ferris becomes only the third institution in Michigan and the 53rd in the world to have access to a fully-streaming video collection of more than 54,000 primary source testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity.

“My ability to provide the funding to Ferris, to acquire a perpetual license for the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, has special meaning to me,” Shapiro noted. “I was born in 1947 in a displaced persons camp in Germany and was 2 years old when my parents, Asa and Sara, both Holocaust survivors, came to Detroit after World War II. They rebuilt their lives in the United States, and it is my parents that inspire my philanthropy.”

The VHA will be housed in the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education, and students, faculty, staff, visiting scholars and community members will be able to search and access testimony from eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust, the Nanjing Massacre and testimonies detailing the genocide of the Tutsi, in Rwanda, and the Armenian genocide, of 1915. The testimonies were conducted in 62 countries and in 41 languages.

Ferris Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Blake expressed his deep appreciation to Shapiro for making this rich resource available to the university community and others.

“The Shoah acquisition is an intellectual and human treasure for Ferris State University,” Blake said. “The opportunities it provides for faculty, student and community research and reflection are powerful. Most importantly, the window the VHA provides to human tragedy and how we respond and attempt to prevent it provides a true lens for both personal and collective transformation. The university is fortunate to have been gifted in this way, by Mr. Shapiro.”

FLITE Dean Scott Garrison echoed Blake’s comments, as he said, “The Shoah Visual History Archive is an amazing primary-source oral history database. ProQuest has been an essential partner in making this resource available for simple access and discovery by students, faculty and others.”

The Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg, includes the Institute for Visual History and Education. Shapiro is a member of the institute’s board of councilors. During Ferris’ May 6 commencement, Shapiro will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business and Industry for his exemplary service to his profession, his exceptional philanthropic generosity and humanitarian efforts, and his passion for Ferris and education, in general. Shapiro attended Ferris, in 1966, before transferring to Michigan State University and graduating, in 1969.

In addition to his recent gift to acquire a perpetual license for the VHA, Shapiro also supports an endowed scholarship, at Ferris, for provisionally-admitted students who successfully complete their trial year in a program overseen by Retention and Student Success, the home for academic support services, at Ferris.

To guide Ferris in the development of programs that will utilize the Shoah Visual History Archive, Blake has established a 21-member working group led by College of Arts, Sciences and Education Humanities Professor Barry Mehler, director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism.

“These unique testimonies will enhance educational opportunities across a very broad spectrum of disciplines, most obviously in Holocaust and genocide studies, but also for courses in Language, Literature, History, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Political Science, among others,” Mehler said. “This is especially wonderful news for our library, which is at the heart and soul of any university.”

Mehler is preparing a two-day training session for Ferris faculty on Monday, May 22, and Tuesday, May 23, which will be led by Shoah Foundation-endorsed scholars from Michigan State University, which is also part of the Shoah archival network.

“We have over 20 faculty members signed up to take this training,” Mehler said.

PHOTO CAPTION: Mickey Shapiro, the child of Holocaust survivors who began his college career at Ferris State University, has been part of an effort to help Ferris acquire access to the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive.