William P. Lauder

Passion for Education

Board of Councilors member William P. Lauder has been part of USC Shoah Foundation from its very beginning, when founder Steven Spielberg asked him to support a collection of interviews with Holocaust survivors. “We met on the Amblin backlot, in a conference room with a whiteboard that had upcoming movie ideas on it,” Lauder recalls. Over the next two decades, those interviews grew into the Visual History Archive, and Lauder has steadfastly backed the Institute ever since.

His mother, Evelyn H. Lauder, fled Austria after Germany annexed the country in 1938. The Nazis murdered most of her relatives who stayed. “My support of the Institute really stems from that history and from a desire to educate kids in Holocaust history so they can ensure it never happens again,” he says.

This passion for education inspired Lauder’s decision to endow the Institute’s Junior Intern Program for middle and high school students. Dozens of participating youth engage in experiential learning annually to become leaders against hate and to promote tolerance on their campuses. In 2017, they traveled to see anti-Semitism’s effects in desecrated Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the remnants of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Budapest, Hungary.

“There’s nothing quite as impactful as testimony-based education to engage kids in firsthand, primary-source history,” Lauder says.