Monday, January 20, 2014
As we envision the possibilities and promise of a new year, we also reflect upon the past, and honor those who have championed the work of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education (CHGE).
Myron "Mike" Kunin was a unique friend and supporter of St Cloud State University. Mike died, October 30, 2013, after a short and intense battle with cancer that like so much else in his life he did privately. He was a very successful business entrepreneur whose love of art led him into a profile of both collector and community leader.
Mike began his quiet and always anonymous support for SCSU by providing funding through his foundation at the Regis Corporation for the work of Professors Scott and Lynn Bryce, now retired from Mass Communications and English. What began as two professors personally dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust, developed through Kunin's sustained contributions into the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education at St. Cloud State University, which provides academic support and community outreach through a powerful collection of resources and a range of programs involving speakers, exhibits, films, study tours, workshops, and teacher education institutes.
Kunin never wanted any publicity here or at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, his endowment of the UM's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies flourished under the leadership of its founding director, Professor Steven Feinstein. Both centers, with Kunin's quiet pushing, have had a focus on teaching the material for the students of all Minnesota.
SCSU recognized Mike Kunin's incomparable financial and visionary support to our community with an honorary doctorate in 2008. Even at this moment of public recognition, Kunin, asked President Potter to permit Professor Joseph Edelheit, his former rabbi at Temple Israel, to speak for him in accepting the University's high honor. Regardless of his wealth, industry leadership, and communal profile, Mike Kunin time and again enjoyed being in the background.
The momentum created by Kunin's support of CHGE led directly to the installation of the first fully promoted and tenured academic faculty director. Since 2009 the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education has been under the leadership of its current Director, Professor Daniel Wildeson. Wildeson worked with Kunin even as the Regis Foundation funding ended during the economic crisis. CHGE's profile on campus and in the community at large continues to expand under Wildeson, who has taken the initial vision that Kunin supported.
Myron Kunin's anonymous financial gifts have already strengthened the education of thousands of students at St. Cloud State University, and more importantly as he always dreamed, there are countless thousands more throughout Minnesota whose lives have been changed by the graduates of SCSU. Kunin's gift to our students will surely change the future of our state, as much as he changed our campus. SCSU shares in the communal recognition of this unique life especially Myron's Kunin's legacy of hope coming from desolation.