Kirk Douglas, film legend and 2008 USC Shoah Foundation Ambassador for Humanity, passes away at 103

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:30am

USC Shoah Foundation joins the Hollywood community and people worldwide in mourning the loss of Kirk Douglas, who passed away earlier this week at age 103. Douglas was an acting legend and an icon of the Golden Age of moviemaking, but it was the zeal and empathy that he brought not only to his work as an artist but also to so many humanitarian causes that made him a close friend of USC Shoah Foundation.

In 1942, Douglas interrupted his nascent acting career to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he worked as a communications officer on an anti-submarine patrol in the Pacific. Through even the very height of his career, he spent years touring the world as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. He embraced countless causes large and small, from refurbishing Los Angeles’ neglected schoolyard playgrounds to campaigning the U.S. government to issue a formal apology for slavery. For his commitment to promoting justice and equality, Douglas was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.

In 2008, USC Shoah Foundation Founder Steven Spielberg presented Kirk Douglas with the organization’s highest honor, the Ambassador for Humanity Award. On the occasion of receiving this recognition, Douglas wrote: “Genocide is a horrible word. It was introduced into our vocabulary after the Holocaust. It is a crime that still exists today.”

Our profound admiration goes to Kirk Douglas for his astonishing body of work, his commitment to so many noble causes, and his role in history as an upstander fighting for a more tolerant and respectful world. He was a champion of USC Shoah Foundation’s mission and we will be forever grateful. May his memory be a blessing.