Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
QUEENS COLLEGE ANNOUNCES WILLIAM AND JERRY UNGAR PROFESSORSHIP IN JEWISH STUDIES
--First Endowed Professorship in College’s Jewish Studies Program Will Help Expand Holocaust Studies at the College--
FLUSHING, NY, October 12, 2006—William Ungar, a successful entrepreneur, and his wife, Jerry, have endowed Queens College with its first named professorship in Jewish Studies. The emphasis will be on Holocaust Studies. William Ungar is a member of the Jewish Studies Executive Advisory Board and holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the college. Jerry Ungar, a Queens College graduate, is the former chair of the Great Neck Chapter of the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry.
“It is crucial that the history of the Holocaust not be forgotten,” says Queens College President James Muyskens. “The Ungars’ generosity will ensure that generations of students learn about this terrible time in human history and the importance of tolerance among all people.”
Born in Poland in 1913, Ungar served as the only Jewish soldier in a Polish military unit fighting the Nazis at the onset of World War II. During the Holocaust, he survived with false documents as a Catholic and in 1942, was taken to the Janowska Concentration Camp from where he escaped. More than 60 members of his family perished, including his wife and baby son. In 1946, penniless and with little knowledge of the English language, Ungar arrived in New York aboard the first Displaced Persons ship to the United States and began working with a company that manufactured machinery to produce envelopes. He took night courses at City College (CUNY), eventually earning a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1952, with three plunger machines, he started the New York Envelope Corporation. Today, known as National Envelope Corporation, it ranks as the largest privately owned envelope manufacturer in North America.
Ungar’s remarkable achievements in business and philanthropy, and his lifelong commitment to Holocaust memory, higher education, and the fostering of tolerance and understanding among people of all backgrounds have been recognized with many awards. He received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the 1995 American Business Achievement Award, the 1996 New York City Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and was designated 1996 National Entrepreneur of the Year.
In 1997, when Ernst & Young published What’s Luck Got to Do With It? Twelve Entrepreneurs Reveal the Secrets Behind Their Success, William Ungar was highlighted as one of the illustrious twelve. Ungar chronicled his story in the hope-filled book, Destined to Live (2000). His most recent book is Only in America: From Holocaust to National Industry Leadership.
“The biographies of the Ungars serve as a riveting testimonial to the human spirit. After escaping a Nazi extermination camp and fighting to help free Soviet Jewry, the Ungars’ latest educational initiative at Queens College is a timely response to the voices of intolerance and anti-Semitism,” says Mark Rosenblum, director of the Jewish Studies Program at Queens College and a professor of history.
The Jewish Studies Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate unit dedicated to inquiry into all aspects of the Jewish experience. Working in conjunction with the college’s Center for Jewish Studies, it seeks to familiarize students and the community with past and present Jewish civilization in the broadest context of world affairs. It appeals to those with a particular attachment or professional interest in the field, as well as to those students just exploring a culture not their own as part of an enriched liberal arts education.
Program director Mark W. Rosenblum is an associate professor of history and also director of the Michael Harrington Center at Queens College. He is the author of numerous scholarly and popular articles on the Middle East and was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative with an award for his work in the field of religion, conflict, and reconciliation. Last year, the Ford Foundation awarded the college $100,000 for his nationally renowned education outreach project, “The Middle East and America: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of the Minds.”
William Helmreich, director of the Queens College Center for Jewish Studies and a personal friend of Bill Ungar’s, observed that Ungar’s achievements after the war "demonstrate that Hitler was unable to achieve the ultimate victory of wiping out the Jewish people. Ungar's life exemplifies the traits of resilience, tenacity, optimism, and courage that enabled so many survivors to succeed following World War II. They are an inspiration for anyone who has lived through tragedy and has had to overcome adversity."
The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College serves as a bridge between the academic program and the community and offers a full range of programming. Helmreich, a professor of sociology and Judaic studies at the City University Graduate Center and City College, has also taught at Yale, Yeshiva, and Hebrew Universities. A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he is the author of 11 books, including, Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives they Made in America (Simon & Schuster), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.