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2017 Guardian of the Human Spirit Award Luncheon
Thursday, November 3, 2017
Location: Hilton Americas-Houston
Almost 1,000 people were on hand Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, as Holocaust Museum Houston honored Gregory L. Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin, and The University of Texas at Austin with the 2017 Guardian of the Human Spirit Award for their commitment to service and building an open-minded society.

The museum’s annual Guardian of the Human Spirit luncheon at the Hilton Americas-Houston, 1600 Lamar St., raised $700,000 to fund general operations and educational programs and outreach programs that promote awareness of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and apathy against the backdrop of the Holocaust. The museum established the Guardian of the Human Spirit award in 1997 as a platform for acknowledging dedicated institutions and leaders who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.

Honoree Gregory L. Fenves, the 29th president of The University of Texas at Austin, has impacted society with his lifelong dedication to teaching, research and academic leadership. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Fenves spoke publicly for the first time about his father Steven’s harrowing story of survival, and how his dad’s courage as an immigrant to the United States helped shape his views.

Fenves shared the emotional story that brought his father Steven to Auschwitz at age 13, the loss of family members, how his father used his trilingual skills to act as an interpreter to stay alive and assist his sister in a nearby camp, and ultimately his father’s liberation by American soldiers. His father and aunt immigrated to the United States in 1950. Steven Fenves later served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and became a renowned professor of engineering, being elected to the elite National Academy of Engineering at the remarkable age of 45. Fenves dedicated his award to his father, Steven Fenves, who joined him on stage to a standing ovation. Click here for complete President Fenves speech.

The University of Texas at Austin, an enduring symbol of the spirit of Texas, works to change the world through groundbreaking research and cutting-edge teaching and learning initiatives. Holocaust Museum Houston has collaborated with The University of Texas at Austin since 2003 on the museum’s Warren Fellowship for Future Teachers, a Holocaust education fellowship with 583 graduates to date whom have gone on to impact tens of thousands of students with lessons of the Holocaust.

Together, The University of Texas at Austin and President Fenves educate and inspire tomorrow’s leaders to explore countless opportunities and cultures. This combined human impact exemplifies what it means to be a Guardian of the Human Spirit.

This year’s Honorary Chairs were The Jack S. Blanton Family, The Cockrell Family and UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven. Luncheon Chairs included prominent Houstonians Linda and Les Allison, Tali and Eric Blumrosen, Hannah and Cal McNair, and Kelly and Bill Montgomery. The Host Committee was chaired by Pauline and Alfie Meyerson. PaperCity magazine serves as media sponsor. Linda Lorelle, president and executive producer of Lorelle Media, served as mistress of ceremonies.

Dignitaries in the crowd included Mayor Sylvester Turner, City of Houston; County Attorney Vince Ryan, Harris County; Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, City of Houston; Council Member Amanda Edwards, City of Houston, At-Large Position 4; Chief of Police Art Acevedo, City of Houston; Ambassador Arthur Schechter, former US Ambassador to the Bahamas; Judge Jane Bland, Texas First Court of Appeals; Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder, Harris County, Texas; Fred Zeidman, former Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council; Consul General Gilad Katz, Consulate General of Israel; Deputy Consul General Omer Chechek-Katz, Consulate General of Israel; Janiece Longoria, Chairman, Port Houston and The University of Texas System Board of Regents; David Beck, The University of Texas System Board of Regents; David Mincberg, Chairman of Houston First; and Chief Development Officer Andy Icken, City of Houston.

UT President Greg Fenves brought his entire family to the event including wife Carmel, daughters Hannah Fenves and Emily Fenves, along with her 5-month-old daughter Carson Healy, and parents Norma and Steven Fenves. Also seen in the crowd were Rhona and Bruce Caress, Brad and Jill Deutser, Denise and Steve Estrin, Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein, Gina Gaston and Mario Elie, Shelly and Brian Hendry, Gail and Milton Klein, Nancy Li-Tarim and Dr. Soner Tarim, Sunni Markowitz and HMH Board Chair Gary Markowitz, Kathrine McGovern, Jerry Rochman, Regina Rogers, Limor and Stuart Smith, Sue and Lester Smith, Dr. Anna Steinberger, Alberta and Andrew Totz, Benjamin Warren, Inna Wizig and Guillermo Guefen, and HMH CEO Dr. Kelly J. Zúñiga and husband Luis Zúñiga.

Previous recipients of the award have included Ric Campo; Velva G. and H. Fred Levine; Edith and Josef Mincberg, Bill Morgan and Murry Bowden; the Harry Mach family; KIPP founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg; former Mayor Annise Parker, Barbara and Gerald Hines; Marc J. Shapiro; Lester and Sue Smith; Sandra Weiner and Martin Fein; Naomi Warren and Fred Zeidman; Joan and Stanford Alexander; Ed Wulfe and the H-E-B grocery chain; Jack Blanton and The Houston Chronicle; the Rev. William A. Lawson and Julie and Ben Rogers; Linda P. Lay and Siegi Izakson; and Ron Stone.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is under a $49.4 expansion at the 5401 Caroline St. building in Houston’s Museum District. During expansion construction, the museum is temporarily located at 9220 Kirby Dr., Suite 100, Houston, TX 77054. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.


UT Austin is the flagship school of the University of Texas System, which includes eight academic universities and six health institutions statewide. Like the state it calls home, The University of Texas at Austin is a bold, ambitious leader driving economic and social progress all while serving the city, state and nation as a leading center of knowledge and creativity.

UT Austin is ranked among the biggest and best research universities in the country, home to more than 50,000 students and 3,000 teaching faculty. The university is one of the top 20 public universities according to U.S. News & World Report, with the No. 1 accounting, Latin American history and petroleum engineering graduate programs in the country — plus more than 15 undergraduate programs and more than 40 graduate programs ranked in the top 10 nationally.

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Museum Hours:

Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Museum Admission:

$12 for adults
$8 for active-duty military and AARP members
Free for children, students and college-level students with valid ID
Free admission on Sundays

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Holocaust Museum Houston is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

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