Bethany College Founder’s Day to Feature Former Hague Judge and Auschwitz Survivor Thomas Buergenthal

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College will celebrate 171 years as a small college of national distinction with its annual Founder’s Day Thursday, March 3. Festivities will include the traditional Founder’s Day Convocation at 11 a.m. in historic Commencement Hall featuring guest speaker Thomas Buergenthal. A 1957 Bethany graduate and former judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Buergenthal is an Auschwitz survivor who now serves as a professor at The George Washington University Law School.

“It is an honor to announce that such an esteemed leader in the international pursuit of peace and justice will join us in celebrating the founding of Bethany College,” stated Bethany President Scott D. Miller. “Thomas Buergenthal has lived his life in service to others and is a remarkable example of the values at the very heart of the College’s mission.”

Buergenthal arrived in the United States when he was 17 years old after spending more than 10 years of his childhood in German camps, including Auschwitz. He graduated from Bethany College in 1957 and went on to earn his J.D. from New York University Law School and an LL.M. and S.J.D. in international law from Harvard University.

He has authored or co-authored numerous articles and more than a dozen books, including the first international human rights law textbook in the United States. He recently published “A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy,” which has been translated into more than 10 languages.

Buergenthal has served as dean of Washington College of Law at American University and in endowed professorships at the University of Texas and Emory University. He was appointed director of the Human Rights Program of the Carter Center.

He served as a judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and president of the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank. Buergenthal was also a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

One of the world’s leading authorities on international law and human rights, he served as the American judge for the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, for more than a decade. He retired in the fall of 2010 and continues his work in the United States as Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at The George Washington University Law School.

Buergenthal is the recipient of awards such as the Manley O. Hudson Medal of the American Society of International Law, the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize and the Goler Butcher Human Rights Prize. He has received honorary doctorates from institutions such as the University of Heidelberg in Germany, the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York.

Miller will preside over the March 3 Convocation. A wreath-laying ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Campbell Cemetery. The wreath will be placed at the gravesite of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), Bethany College’s founder and first president. Guests are invited to visit the Campbell Mansion, one of Bethany’s National Historic Landmarks, following the ceremony.

Founder’s Day at Bethany College is observed on the first Thursday of March. The College received its official charter from the Legislature of Virginia on March 2, 1840. The charter was affirmed on June 20, 1863 by the Legislature of the newly formed state of West Virginia.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.