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March 1, 2006
Vol. 63
No. 6

Great Teachers Remembered: Elie Wiesel

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      As a doctoral student at Boston University in fall 1987, I was fortunate to have found a place in Professor Wiesel's course, Literature of Memory: Responses to Jewish Persecution. Just the year before, Wiesel had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Although he had attained worldwide recognition as a prolific author and spokesperson for peace—he wrote more than 30 works, including the famous Night—he had put none of his books on the required reading list for the course. Further, I cannot recall a single time in class when he referred to anything he had written. I remember Elie Wiesel as a man of uncommon humility.
      Wiesel's course is the only one I have ever taken that included, as a requirement, a one-hour individual meeting with the professor. We were encouraged to ask him questions. He asked questions, too, to become more familiar with us. In my hour with him, I perceived a genuine curiosity and interest in the parts of my life that I shared with him.
      At the beginning of each class, Professor Wiesel entered the room from the back and proceeded to his place up front. He acknowledged the students who greeted him along the way by coming to a full stop, making eye contact, addressing the student by name, and returning the greeting.
      If a student raised a hand while Professor Wiesel was lecturing, he would stop speaking to respond immediately. A careful listener, he considered teaching an act of service. More from him than from anyone else, I learned the importance and value of respecting students.

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