Institute Welcomes New Executive Director, Stephen Smith

Mon, 08/17/2009 - 12:00am

After an extensive worldwide search, Howard Gillman, Dean of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, announced this week the appointment of a new leadership team for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.

Kim Simon, new Managing Director, and Stephen Smith, new Executive DirectorDr. Stephen Smith will become the new Executive Director of the Institute effective August 15, 2009.  Kim Simon, who served as Interim Executive Director and Director of Programs this past year, will become the new Managing Director of the Institute.

“As one of the world’s leading advocates for Holocaust education and prevention, Stephen possesses the leadership qualities, scholarly credentials, and personal dedication necessary to make the Institute a global force in promoting its mission to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of its visual history testimonies,” said Gillman.

Smith will come to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute after serving as founding director of The UK Holocaust Centre, Britain’s first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education center.  For his work in establishing this center he became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.).  He also co-founded the Aegis Trust, an agency engaged in the prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide.  Smith also chairs the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the body which runs the national Holocaust commemoration in the UK.

We are thrilled to see a scholar of Stephen Smith’s caliber at the helm of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.  The Institute represents USC’s ambitious effort to guide the academic examination of one of the defining moments of our contemporary world. And now this effort will be led by someone with a global profile and network.

—USC Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias

Smith has been involved in memorial projects around the world, including the creation of the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda.  He was a consultant to the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, where he serves as a trustee.  He has taught extensively in Lithuania, and has been a member of the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, since its inception in 1998.

Smith earned his Bachelor of Divinity from Birkbeck College at the University of London, and studied at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies before earning his Ph.D. from the Department of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Birmingham.  As a scholar he has explored the impact of the Holocaust on religious and philosophical thought and practice.  He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the “trajectory of memory,” examining how Holocaust survivor narratives—and in particular visual history—has developed over time and shapes the way in which the implications of the Holocaust are understood.  He has written extensively, including such books as Making Memory:  Creating Britain’s First Holocaust Centre, and Forgotten Place:  The Holocaust and the Remnants of Destruction.  He has lectured widely to international audiences on issues relating to Holocaust education, racism, and prejudice.

“We are thrilled to see a scholar of Stephen Smith’s caliber at the helm of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.  The Institute represents USC’s ambitious effort to guide the academic examination of one of the defining moments of our contemporary world,” said USC Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias.  “And now this effort will be led by someone with a global profile and network.”

In accepting this appointment, Smith said, “More than 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust invested their life histories in this unique archive. To have the chance to be custodian of their timeless truths is an honor and a heavy responsibility. As the USC Shoah Foundation Institute begins to collect the testimonies of recent genocides, the need to create a powerful resource to combat the causes of hatred becomes all the greater.”

Smith stated that academic research, state-of-the-art technology, the moral weight of the Holocaust testimonies, and the tragic reality of more recent crimes against humanity, make the Institute’s visual history collection a compelling and essential resource in the search for answers to the cycle of human hatred.  “I will endeavor to lead that cause with the focus, dignity, and energy it deserves,” he said.

As Managing Director of the Institute, Kim Simon will serve in an expanded leadership role.  In this new position, Simon will continue to administer programs and also oversee research and documentation activities.  As the second-ranked administrator of the Institute, she will also provide guidance on strategic planning, fundraising and grant opportunities, and the best use of resources to ensure the advancement of the Institute’s mission.

Simon has been with the Shoah Foundation Institute since its inception.  After coordinating the Institute’s efforts to collect interviews worldwide, she established the Institute’s office of global partnerships and international programs, creating and developing its international agenda and overseeing its work in 17 countries.  She also guided its global communications efforts and served as executive in charge of production of the Institute’s two most recent documentary films.

“Kim has done extraordinary work for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, both as program director and as interim executive director this past year.  Her appointment as managing director ensures that the Institute will benefit even more from her extensive experience and strong leadership,” Gillman said.

“As the USC Shoah Foundation Institute reaches its 15th year, we are beginning a new era of leadership, accomplishment, challenge, and opportunity,” Simon said.  “We are just as committed today as we were in 1994 to preserve, educate with, and provide access to the unique life stories of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses who we are so fortunate to have in the archive today, and those testimonies of survivors of other genocides that will become part of the archive in the future.  It is a privilege to be part of this effort moving forward.”

In recognizing Simon’s new position Nikias said, “We are also grateful to Kim Simon for her stellar work in preparing the Institute for this new chapter, and are delighted that she is now serving as managing director in an expanded role.”

Dean Gillman and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute extend gratitude to the individuals who served on the search committee and generously devoted their time throughout the past year:  Institute board members Bob Katz, Bruce Ramer, and Harry Robinson, and faculty members Beth Meyerowitz, Don Miller, Michael Renov, and Steve Ross.