In a memo released this morning to the USC community, Howard Gillman, dean of USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, announced that he has appointed a new leadership team for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute (USC SFI) for Visual History and Education.
Dr. Stephen Smith will become the new executive director of USC SFI effective August 15, 2009. Kim Simon, who served as interim executive director this past year, will become the new managing director of the Institute.
“As one of the world’s leading advocates for Holocaust education and prevention, Stephen possesses the leadership qualities, scholarly credentials, and personal dedication necessary to make USC SFI a global force in promoting its mission to overcome prejudice, intolerance and bigotry — and the suffering they cause — through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies,” wrote Gillman, who also chaired the search committee.
Smith will come to USC SFI after serving as founding director of The Holocaust Centre, Britain’s first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education center. He also chairs the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and has been involved in memorial projects around the world, including the creation of the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda.
Smith earned his Bachelor of Divinity from Birkbeck College at the University of London, and studied at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies before earning his Ph.D. from the Department of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. His publications include Making Memory: Creating Britain’s First Holocaust Centre and Forgotten Place: The Holocaust and the Remnants of Destruction. He has lectured widely to international audiences on issues relating to Holocaust education, racism and prejudice.
“We are thrilled to see a scholar of Stephen Smith’s caliber at the helm of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. The Institute represents USC’s ambitious effort to guide the academic examination of one of the defining moments of our contemporary world,” said USC Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias. “And now this effort will be led by someone with a global profile and network.”
In accepting this appointment, Smith said: “More than 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust invested their life histories in this unique archive. To have the chance to be custodian of their timeless truths is an honor and a heavy responsibility. As the USC Shoah Foundation Institute begins to collect the testimonies of recent genocides, the need to create a powerful resource to combat the causes of hatred becomes all the greater.”
Smith stated that academic research, state-of-the-art technology, the moral weight of the Holocaust testimonies and the tragic reality of more recent crimes against humanity make the Institute’s visual history collection a compelling and essential resource in the search for answers to the cycle of human hatred. “I will endeavor to lead that cause with the focus, dignity and energy it deserves,” he said.
Dean Gillman also announced that Interim Executive Director Kim Simon has accepted an appointment as the new managing director of USC SFI, where she will administer programs, oversee research and documentation activities, and provide guidance on strategic planning and fundraising activities.
“Kim Simon has done extraordinary work for the USC SFI, both as program director and as interim executive director this past year. Her appointment as managing director ensures that USC SFI will benefit even more from her extensive experience and strong leadership,” Gillman said.
“As the USC Shoah Foundation Institute reaches its 15th year, we are beginning a new era of leadership, accomplishment, challenge and opportunity,” Simon said. “We are just as committed today as we were in 1994 to preserve, educate with, and provide access to the unique life stories of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses who we are so fortunate to have in the archive today, and those testimonies of survivors of other genocides that will become part of the archive in the future. It is a privilege to be part of this effort moving forward.”
In recognizing Simon’s new position Nikias said, “We are also grateful to Kim Simon for her stellar work in preparing the Institute for this new chapter, and are delighted that she is now serving as managing director in an expanded role.”
Simon has been with the Shoah Foundation Institute since its inception. After coordinating the Institute’s efforts to collect interviews worldwide, Simon established the Institute’s office of global partnerships and international programs, creating and developing its international agenda, and overseeing its work in 17 countries. She also guided its global communications efforts and served as executive in charge of production of the Institute’s two most recent documentary films.
Gillman praised the members of the search committee, which included SFI board members Bob Katz, Bruce Ramer and Harry Robinson and faculty members Beth Meyerowitz, Don Miller, Michael Renov and Steve Ross. Gillman also recognized the assistance of Nicola Shocket and Caroline Nahas from Korn/Ferry International.
For more information about the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, and to read the full text of Gillman’s memo, visit college.usc.edu/vhi.