The UCLA Promise Armenian Institute and the Kerr Family have come together to create an endowed lectureship with the aim of amplifying the stories of heroes and heroines who dedicated themselves to providing humanitarian support for victims and survivors of violence and mass atrocities in times of crisis.
The lectureship will be named in honor of the Kerr Family, whose progenitors include Professor Stanley and Elsa Reckman Kerr, who not only worked for many years with the Near East Relief organization, rescuing and caring for survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–23, but also documented their experiences. The Kerrs’ descendants include the late Malcolm Kerr, former UCLA professor and president of the American University of Beirut, and his wife, Ann Kerr, who has served UCLA for many decades as the Coordinator of the Fulbright Enrichment Program.
The first Kerr Family Lecture at UCLA will feature documentarian Ani Hovannisian, who will present the extraordinary humanitarian work of Stanley and Elsa Kerr during and after the Armenian Genocide in Marash, Aleppo and Beirut. Hovannisian has gathered and will share extensive archival material and footage on the history of the Kerrs and their longstanding contributions, which continue through their family to the present day. Historian and UCLA Professor Emeritus Richard Hovannisian, who knew the Kerrs and wrote the introduction to Stanley Kerr’s 1973 memoir, “The Lions of Marash,” will deliver an introduction and commentary prior to the talk.
The inaugural Kerr Family lecture will take place in person on Wednesday, April 12
Subsequent lectures in the Kerr Family lecture series, which aims to inspire courageous humanitarian efforts by future generations, will focus on the contributions of individuals — especially those who are not widely known — who have played similarly critical roles in helping alleviate the suffering of those facing war, famine, genocide and other mass atrocities. Annual talks provided by distinguished scholars will make the life stories of these heroes more widely known.
“It is particularly fitting that the Promise Armenian Institute will host this annual lecture series. The actions of numerous heroes during the Armenian Genocide no doubt inspired and found parallels throughout the century that followed and well into the 21st century. Drawing such connections in a visible way, year after year, will encourage future scholarly research and humanitarian action in response to mass tragedies,” remarked Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and a grandson of Stanley and Elsa Kerr.
“As a scholarly organization with a focus on Armenia and Armenians — an ethnic group that has unfortunately suffered subjugation and genocide, as well as a century of systemic denial of that genocide — it is fitting for the PAI to celebrate not only the Kerr family’s contributions, but those of unsung heroes associated with other mass atrocities,” said Ann Karagozian, director of PAI and distinguished professor in the UCLA Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“The commemoration of both historical and contemporary events will place the Armenian experience within a global context and clearly demonstrate the chilling effect that indifference, denial and lack of accountability can have on the repetition of mass violence, as we are witnessing even today,” she noted.