If you were wondering, well, so was I: how is it that Elie Wiesel, the renowned Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor and author, came to be an annual fixture on the campus at Orange County’s Chapman University, founded as a Protestant institution of the Disciples of Christ?
Wiesel told me he credits the center’s director and founder, Marilyn J. Harran, a scholar of Martin Luther who has been a well-nigh irresistible force in making the place happen. Orange County attorney William Elperin, who belongs to a group of Holocaust survivors and descendants, told the Jewish Journal that Harran “is the person most responsible for transforming Orange County from a Holocaust denial center to a Holocaust education center."
Chapman’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education bears the name of winemakers Barry and Phyllis Rodgers; he was an aeronautical engineer, and she was a computer software developer. The teaching position, the Stern chair in Holocaust education, was a gift of Orange County philanthropists Sue and Ralph Stern; his parents left Germany for South Africa before the persecutions began, but some of his relatives died in a Nazi death camp in Poland.