Five short years ago, in 2016, Queens University of Charlotte launched the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice, inspired by Stan Greenspon’s vision for Holocaust education, the university’s embracing of Jewish life, and a clear community need for social justice and organized advocacy.
Stan’s partnership over the years has been central to the Center’s influence, and never more so than in this moment. In recognition of the recent five-year anniversary, Stan Greenspon has made a new gift, committing $1.5 million, which initiates a new strategic roadmap and sets an incredible future in motion for the Center. Stan Greenspon, who enjoyed success as an insurance broker and saw a need to expand Holocaust education in the region views the Center as a “culmination of a dream.”
This gift firmly roots Holocaust education as a core of the Center’s vital mission, launching a Holocaust Education Fellowship Program and establishing an endowed Director position. Talli Dippold, who co-authored the 2015 study that envisioned the Center and has been co-leading since its inception, will service as the inaugural director. At such a crucial juncture, the Greenspon Center volunteer and professional leadership felt it was appropriate to adopt a new name: The Stan Greenspon Holocaust and Social Justice Education Center. This new branding places needed focus on education and training, the hallmarks of the Center.
Queens University’s president Dan Lugo, could not be more thrilled with Stan’s partnership. “The vision of the Greenspon Center aligns perfectly with the strategic vision of Queens. The center’s commitment to Holocaust and social justice education and to interfaith bridge building will develop change makers and expand equity and inclusion. This gift will have a transformative impact on our campus and community and allows Queens to distinguish itself on a national level.”
The Impact of This Gift
Stan’s endowment comes at a crucial time for our community. The fight against discrimination has intensified. Political and social events, such as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, have fueled growing community awareness and a desire to learn and respond with action.
As the Center approached its five-year anniversary, its leadership embarked on a strategic planning effort to determine how to maximize results for the next five years. With input from stakeholders across the community, the Queens University campus, interfaith clergy, the Greenspon Center advisory committee, community activists and supporters, and Jewish communal leaders, the Center’s leadership refined a roadmap designed to expand Holocaust education, social justice training, and Jewish life at Queens.
The first crucial step was to reimagine Holocaust education – devising a program that would:
- “Train the trainers”, creating skilled educators to expand the network of teachers and community members prepared to respond to needs both inside and outside the school setting
- Include a Certificate in Holocaust Pedagogy
- Develop programming to maximize community outreach, such as travelling “pop-up” exhibits to underserved neighborhoods around Charlotte (a first exhibit is being planned to share the life and story of Anne Frank)
Stan’s generous gift brings this foundational program to life. Rabbi Judy Schindler, the Greenspon Center’s Director and Sklut Professor of Jewish Studies, noted “Stan’s generosity is allowing us to reimagine Holocaust education for the 21st century and to make that vision happen.”
Next Up – Continuing to Transform Lives On Campus
Looking forward, the center’s thought partners recognized that understanding, belonging, acceptance, and change often take root and gain strength in the context of community. This has always been the driving motivation behind the center’s support of our remarkable Queens’ Hillel and interfaith students who come to college grateful for a good Shabbat or holiday meal, and often leave with a better sense of their connection to Jewish peoplehood and how to comfortably engage in interfaith settings.
Noah Goldman, Queens Class of 2019 and past president of Hillel, acknowledged how Jewish life at Queens affected his ability to become a change agent. As a result of a painful antisemitic incident during his college years, he recognized the ways “antisemitism had started to creep into the mainstream of politics and how it had begun to affect him more and more.” It was his peers and professors who supported him in speaking out against hatred. Goldman remarked, “Queens gave me a platform to comfortably say that hate is unacceptable and to unleash a bravery I did not know that I had. Queens helped me learn that I am strong enough to speak up and speak out.”
Because of stories like Noah’s, the Greenspon Center understands the imperative to continue to strengthen support of Jewish life at Queens, developing a powerful tool for interfaith bridge building.
…And Working Towards Social Justice In Our Community
Injustice and bias exist everywhere – in our community, in our institutions, and in ourselves. Identifying and eliminating these prejudices can be overwhelming. When done in community, the work of social justice teaches us to better understand barriers, builds empathy, and prompts effective action. “We feel powerless alone. We are powerful together,” is a mantra the Center lives.
The Greenspon Center brings people together — to support Charlotteans who want to use their influence for good, to support Jewish and interfaith students who want to be bridge builders, and to support regional educators who want to effectively incorporate the lessons of the Holocaust into their classrooms. The center’s team understands that history tends repeats itself, and it’s up to all of us to make sure it doesn’t.
As the Center celebrates Stan’s generosity, it invites the community to walk with and work with it to advance this critical vision and advocate human rights for all.