A small group of donors devoted to the work of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has honored retiring President David P. Angel with the creation of the David P. Angel Professorship, which will be dedicated to Holocaust pedagogy and the study of antisemitism.
This endowed faculty chair comes at a significant moment in the development of the Strassler Center as it expands in crucial new directions to become a comprehensive program. Since it was established in 1998, the Strassler Center has gained international recognition for faculty research and for training doctoral students on the history of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other cases of mass violence and genocide.
“The Center’s unique achievements and continued development demonstrate beyond any doubt that Clark, a small university with its origin as an institution of graduate education, has been an ideal home to develop a niche Ph.D. program into a globally renowned flagship,” Angel said. “I am honored to continue my long association with the Strassler Center thanks to these donors who have seen fit to enlarge the scope of its research and teaching.”
President Angel has been key to fostering the success of the Strassler Center throughout his 33-year Clark career, first as dean of graduate studies, then as provost, and, since 2010, as president. Most recently, his advocacy was critical to the expansion of the Strassler Center’s mini campus with the Colin Flug Graduate Study Wing, which opened in 2019. The addition created much-needed space to expand the program as part of a strategic vision to add faculty who will incorporate new areas of inquiry.
A series of pioneering professorships has characterized the development of the Strassler Center since 1996 when the Rose Professorship was established as the first-ever endowed chair in the United States dedicated to the history of the Holocaust. A second professorship, the Strassler Family Chair, in 1998 ushered in the training of doctoral students in Holocaust history. The Kaloosdian Mugar Chair continued this groundbreaking trend by introducing Armenian Genocide Studies to the doctoral program in 2002. An anthropologist who specializes in mass violence in Southeast Asia has added further expertise to the Strassler Center’s offerings.
The idea to recognize Angel’s contributions with a named professorship began with two notable Clark supporters who have an enduring connection: David H. Strassler, MBA ’11, and Rebecca Colin ’89.
In 1998, Strassler, who was serving as chair of the Board of Trustees, endowed the Strassler Center with his brother, Robert. Colin, a current trustee and inaugural chair of the Strassler Center Leadership Council, has directed her support to the Strassler Center out of a deep interest in the subject of genocide, especially the Holocaust.
But the Strassler and Flug families also enjoy a longstanding relationship. Sam Flug, Rebecca’s grandfather, and Sam Strassler, David’s father, were business partners. Rebecca and David honored the memory of that friendship by changing the name of the Strassler Family Chair to the Strassler Colin Flug Chair.
In January, David Strassler and Rebecca Colin pledged matching gifts, which ignited the campaign to fund the Angel Professorship. “I am delighted to have partnered with Rebecca to help bring a new professorship to fruition and I welcome her dedication to the Center’s continued success,” Strassler said.
Stephen Corman, a member of the Strassler Center Leadership Council, agreed to pledge a generous bequest toward the professorship. The estate of Thomas Zand, a local pediatrician born to Holocaust survivors in Czechoslovakia, committed significant funding. In keeping with Dr. Zand’s interests, the holder of the Angel Chair will seek to further collaborations with Israeli institutions.
A substantial gift from an anonymous alumnus moved the initiative forward considerably. Linda Savitsky ’70, an ardent friend to the Strassler Center, welcomed the opportunity to honor President Angel with whom she worked as a long-serving trustee. Finally, Judi Bohn ’75, who has devoted herself to the memory of the Holocaust and to assisting aging survivors as part of her work at Facing History and Ourselves, together with her husband, Larry Bohn, M.A. ’76, brought the total funds pledged to within sight of the final amount needed.
The Angel Professorship comes at a time of rising antisemitism and increasing distortion of the history and legacy of the Holocaust. A central rationale of Holocaust education has been to spread tolerance, diversity, and inclusion in the spirit of “Never again.” Despite these efforts, a surge in discriminatory attitudes has led to violent consequences against Jews and other minorities across the globe. The Strassler Center will collaborate with the Hiatt Center for Urban Education at Clark to promote greater appreciation for the relationship between education and understanding about antisemitism, racism, human rights, genocidal violence, and prevention of atrocity.
As the endowment for the Angel Professorship gets established, the Strassler Center will welcome two temporary junior appointments. A three-year position beginning in Fall ’21 will specialize in teaching and research in Holocaust pedagogy and the study of antisemitism. A second professorship in genocide studies and genocide prevention will introduce expertise on mass violence in the global south. The holder of this position will have training in human rights, international law, political science, or other disciplines that demand in-depth local experience and knowledge. With these faculty additions, the Strassler Center will link the study of past human rights violations to efforts to prevent current and future violations.
As he prepares to depart Clark, President Angel has helped to ensure that the Strassler Center will continue its innovative tradition of training students who tackle the challenges of a complex and rapidly changing world. The accomplishments of students and faculty who benefit from the Center’s widened vision will serve as a permanent tribute to his exceptional support.
Mary Jane Rein is the executive director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.