A Celebration Honoring Alvin Rosenfeld

Grand Hall at Union Station
Indianapolis, Indiana

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie shared remarks at a celebration in honor of Alvin Rosenfeld, a distinguished scholar of Jewish literature and Holocaust studies at IU.  Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University


Thank you, Lauren (Robel).

Laurie, and I are delighted to be here tonight to help celebrate Professor Alvin Rosenfeld’s 50 years at Indiana University and his immense contributions to the university and to his field—and to wish him a happy birthday!

Remembering Richard Lugar

Alvin is the founder and former long-time director of IU's renowned Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program, which is part of IU's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

We are here tonight, of course, to celebrate Alvin, but all of us at Indiana University were deeply saddened to learn, earlier today, of the passing of one of the school's namesakes, former Indianapolis mayor and former United States Senator Richard Lugar. Senator Lugar, who served as a faculty member in the school for the last six years, was one of Indiana's and our nation's most illustrious and visionary statesmen. His life and career will continue to be an inspiration for people around the world who devote themselves to public service. On behalf of all of us at IU, we send our most heartfelt condolences to the senator's wife, Charlene, his family, friends and former colleagues, and all of those whose lives he positively impacted through his extraordinary service to our state and nation.

There will be multiple occasions in the next few weeks to remember the remarkable achievements of Senator Lugar.

Honoring Alvin Rosenfeld

Tonight, we gather to recognize the achievements of a longtime member of the Indiana University faculty, Alvin Rosenfeld, whose depth of knowledge of Jewish history and literature—as well as his informed understanding of the Jewish experience in America and around the world—have helped shape two of Indiana University's most respected academic centers. 

As the founder and director of IU's Borns Jewish Studies Program, Alvin helped make Indiana University one of the first public institutions in the nation to offer such a program. Over the course of 30 years, he built an outstanding program, renowned not only for its academic rigor, but also for its supportive and inspiring intellectual environment. Since its founding more than 45 years ago, the program has granted more degrees in Jewish studies than any non-denominational university in the nation.

Alvin is, of course, also the founder and director of Indiana University’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, one of the only university programs of its kind in the United States.

Under Alvin's outstanding leadership, the Institute performs an invaluable service through its international leadership in the timely study of contemporary antisemitism.

Through its publications and through conferences that draw leading scholars from around the world, the work of the Institute reminds all of us that in our diverse and increasingly global society, we cannot afford to ignore the lessons drawn from the serious and informed study of present-day antisemitism and its deep connections with centuries-old traditions of suspicion and hatred.

Tragically, in just the last few days, we have seen yet another act of murderous antisemitism and a vicious anti-Muslim hate crime, perpetrated and encourages by those who would tear our nation apart.

The outstanding scholarship in which Alvin and his colleagues are engaged helps us to educate our students, the communities we serve, and the broader public about both the history of antisemitism and its contemporary resurgence, and intolerance and prejudice more broadly. All of us at IU are proud that the Institute is an integral part of that vital effort.

Many of you may know that Indiana University is about to celebrate its Bicentennial. In fact, the beginning or our Bicentennial Year is now only 64 days away. And many of you also know that we are in the midst of a university-wide fundraising campaign, the goal of which is to raise $3 billion by the end of June, 2020, to help ensure that IU remains one of the great universities of the world in its third century. Within the Bicentennial campaign is a faculty and staff campaign, which has, to date, raised nearly $173 million through the generosity of more than 15,500 faculty and staff members. Their generosity, as the men and women who work daily to help Indiana University achieve excellence in its teaching and research missions, is a tremendous vote of confidence in IU and its future. And generous philanthropic donations by faculty members, in particular, allows the work in which they so strongly believe to continue and grow.

And so, I was delighted to announce last month, during the Institute’s fourth global conference on contemporary antisemitism, that Alvin had generously endowed the Erna B. Rosenfeld Professorship in the Borns Jewish Studies Program in memory of his late wife, Erna. Alvin's wife of 50 years, Erna was a longtime IU staff member who received the university’s Staff Merit Award for her work as the Area Coordinator for IU Residence Life. This will be the first endowed professorship at any university in the United States with a focus on the study of contemporary antisemitism, and it will allow Indiana University to maintain its leading position in the study of contemporary antisemitism in the United States.

Alvin has also served on a great many national and international boards and committees involved in communicating, teaching, and memorializing the Holocaust and its impact. To give just one example of his outstanding commitment to service, he was appointed in 2002 by U.S. President George W. Bush to the governing council of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In December, he was named a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a Montreal-based international consortium of government officials, scholars, jurists, students, and others dedicated to pursuing justice through the protection and promotion of human rights.

Presenting the President's Medal for Excellence

And I am very pleased to add to his honors tonight. Alvin, would you please join me at the podium.

Alvin, it is a distinct honor to recognize your deep and sustained commitment to Indiana University by awarding you the highest honor a president of IU can bestow: the President's Medal for Excellence.

The Indiana University President’s Medal for Excellence is a reproduction in fine silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by IU's president on ceremonial occasions.

Three precious stones within the jewel represent the university’s cultivation of reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as the arts, sciences, and humanities. 

The medal is given to recognize exceptional distinction in public service, service to Indiana University, achievement in a profession, or extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and industry.

Alvin, you have exceeded these criteria during the course of your outstanding 50-year career at Indiana University, and for that let me extend our deepest and most grateful thanks. 

And so, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the trustees of Indiana University, in recognition of the lasting and far-reaching impact you have made on Indiana University, on the field of Jewish Studies, and on and the consciousness of our nation, I am privileged and honored to present you with the President's Medal for Excellence.