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University Donation Funds Holocaust Chair


Chapman University, with its growing reputation as a center for Holocaust research, teaching and outreach, has attracted a financial gift that ensures its efforts will not only continue but can accelerate.

The private university in Orange has received a seven-figure gift from Ralph and Sue Stern of Tustin to endow a permanent chair in Holocaust education. The chair will be awarded to Marilyn Harran, founding director of the university's Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.

Stern is chief executive of CareCredit, an Anaheim-based health care consumer finance company. He and his wife are active in a number of local charitable organizations.

The university would not reveal the exact amount of the Sterns' gift, but past endowments for chairs have been from $1 million to $3 million.

"What the endowment means is this position, which will be devoted to teaching about the Holocaust and developing a resource center for Holocaust education in Orange County, is now a commitment and will always be done at Chapman," said Harran, 52, a professor of religious studies and history.

Since 1994, Harran has, with the support of Chapman President James L. Doti, developed the university's emphasis on Holocaust education. It now includes two courses, two public lecture series, a Holocaust essay contest for middle school and high school students, and Holocaust Remembrance Day on campus.

Harran is passionate about Holocaust education and outreach, particularly to schools. For her efforts, Harran got the "Teacher of the Holocaust Award" this year from the "1939" Club, a Los Angeles-based Holocaust survivor group.

Doti said Harran deserved appointment to the new chair. "She personally has guided our efforts in making Chapman a leading center for Holocaust education and research," he said.

And, Doti said, it is an honor having Stern's name associated with Chapman.

Ralph Stern is active in Project No-Gangs and Drug Use Is Life Abuse. He headed the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County and co-chairs the capital campaign for Congregation B'nai Israel in Tustin.

Sue Stern was president of the Children's Home Society and a board member of South Coast Repertory Theatre.

Although Ralph Stern, 56, has no firsthand memories of the Holocaust--he was born in South Africa, where his German-born parents fled in 1935--an uncle and his family died in the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

Harran, who is not Jewish, was hired as an associate professor of religion at Chapman in 1985.

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