The Elie Wiesel Endowed Professorship in Humane Letters
The Elie Wiesel Professorship in Humane Letters was endowed with a gift from Mrs. Jean Giles Wittner and her beloved late husband, Ted. Mrs. Wittner has been an Eckerd College Trustee for nearly a quarter of a century and a stalwart supporter and wonderful friend. As Co-Chair of the Trustee Leadership Committee for The Campaign for Eckerd College with fellow Trustee Martha Rudy Wallace, she has provided endless support and expertise for this effort.
A St. Petersburg resident since her childhood, Mrs. Wittner is well known and recognized for her professional career as well as her service as a community leader and volunteer. She was the first woman elected President of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and later was elected Chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Chamber of Commerce in 1982-1983. Ten years later, she was inducted in the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame. In 2003, she was in the inaugural group of women recognized as members of the Pinellas County Business Women's Hall of Fame.
Professor Carolyn Johnston was appointed the first occupant of the Elie Wiesel Professorship in Humane Letters. After completing her Ph.D. at the University of California, Dr. Johnston joined the Eckerd College faculty in 1978 as Assistant Professor of American Studies and History. Since then she has risen through the faculty ranks to full Professor and established herself as one of the College's most dynamic teachers and productive scholars. Her courses, noted for their intriguing titles, have ranged from "Rebels with a Cause: Radicals, Reactionaries and Reformers" to "Women in Modern America: The Hand that Cradles the Rock." She received the Robert A. Staub Outstanding Teacher Award in 1991. She has also been a leader in the campus community, serving as Chair of the Letters Collegium for ten years and as Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program since its inception.
For more than 13 years, Dr. Johnston has co-taught with Professor Elie Wiesel, making this first appointment of this professorship especially appropriate. Eckerd students who have taken their class unanimously sing their praises as extraordinary teachers. Professor Wiesel received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Eckerd in 1998 and has provided the keynote addresses for the College's Phi Beta Kappa Installation in 2004 and the 50th Anniversary Convocation in February 2008. He and his wife, Marion, bring us great honor each year when they join us to become part of the life of the College.
Former Chairman and President of the Pinellas Education Foundation, Mrs. Wittner has impacted the youth of Pinellas County, as was demonstrated by Johnny Boykins '08 at the Annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon in 2006: "I still remember something Mrs. Wittner told me when I was in the third grade. She told me that as long as I work hard to better my life and my community, she would continue to work for me. She has gone beyond her commitment to me and I will be forever grateful for her kindness and generosity. I hope everyone in this room will have the same opportunity to bond with the people sitting at their tables as I did with the Wittners. I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Wittner for their dedication to the education of young people in Pinellas County, and beyond. I salute the Wittner Family." And so does Eckerd College.