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USC Shoah Foundation Institute Presents Inspiration Award

By Anne Marie Stein
April 27, 2012

From left, Stephen Smith, Arnold Spielberg, Steven Spielberg and USC president C. L. Max Nikias celebrate the presentation of the Shoah Foundation Institute’s inaugural Inspiration Award. Photo by Jonathan Leibson/FilmMagic/Getty Images.

From left, Stephen Smith, Arnold Spielberg, Steven Spielberg and USC president C. L. Max Nikias celebrate the presentation of the Shoah Foundation Institute’s inaugural Inspiration Award. Photo by Jonathan Leibson/FilmMagic/Getty Images.

Arnold Spielberg, father of USC Shoah Foundation Institute founder Steven Spielberg, was honored on April 26 with the institute’s inaugural Inspiration Award at a private luncheon in Los Angeles. Arnold Spielberg was recognized for his many years of mentorship and support of the institute’s work, especially in the area of humanity through technology.

A computer pioneer and former electrical engineer, Arnold Spielberg was a volunteer and guiding light helping to inspire the early team at the organization to overcome technical and logistical hurdles. Phil Rosenthal, creator of the acclaimed comedy Everybody Loves Raymond and longtime supporter of the institute, served as the master of ceremonies for the event. He also is the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors.

Internationally renowned concert pianist Olga Kern, the special musical guest, gave a stellar performance.

The Inspiration Award, which will hereafter be known as the Arnold Spielberg Inspiration Award, was established to honor friends who have supported and inspired the institute, including community leaders, institute volunteers, teachers, scholars, survivors and other unsung heroes, and to raise awareness of the institute’s goals of promoting tolerance, cultural understanding and mutual respect through the educational use of the testimonies in its Visual History Archive.

The USC Shoah Foundation Institute, part of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has collected and maintains an archive of nearly 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses, from 56 countries in 32 languages – the largest visual history archive of its kind in the world.

“Arnold’s contribution not only to the institute, but also to the world, through his pioneering work in the field of technology, has created a lasting legacy for current and future generations,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the institute. “Arnold provided mentorship and support when it was greatly needed, and his astute counsel helped move the organization in the right direction and frame the groundwork upon which the institute’s Visual History Archive is built.”

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg said: “I am so pleased and touched to be able to recognize my father’s vital contributions to the organization. With this Inspiration Award that will carry his name in perpetuity, my father will continue to be a beacon as we pursue our mission.”

Microsoft served as presenting sponsor of the event.

“It is a great privilege to be a part of this special celebration to recognize Arnold Spielberg for his contribution to the institute by building upon the promise of transforming and promoting humanity through technology,” said Don Mattrick, president of interactive entertainment business at Microsoft. “We are proud to support the important educational work of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and Steven Spielberg’s visionary purpose to transform people’s attitudes, beliefs and the way we learn through eyewitness testimony.“

During World War II, Arnold Spielberg served with the 490th “Skull and Wings” Bombardment Squadron, known as the “Burma Bridge Busters,” and became communications chief. He helped design and build the first business computer. He also invented and patented the first electronic library system and designed the first electronic cash register, transforming the “point of sale” retail industry.

“I am very proud that my son, Steven, had the foresight to record the stories of the survivors so that future generations could learn lessons from the voices of those who were subjected to intolerance and hatred, and scholars could research the archive and use the content in whatever way they could to benefit humanity,” Arnold Spielberg said. “[Dwight D.] Eisenhower told his commanders to take many pictures because in the future the Holocaust would be denied, as it is even now. I believe the power of the institute’s Visual History Archive, like those photographs, remains a testament to the truth that no one can deny.”

The award luncheon highlighted some of the organization’s milestones and educational programs while allowing Arnold Spielberg’s friends and colleagues to share personal anecdotes about working with him at the institute. Steven Spielberg and his three sisters, Anne, Sue and Nancy, presented his father with the award, with his extended family in attendance.