Alumnus Thomas Buergenthal to Deliver Commencement Address at Bethany College

Human Rights Activist to be Honored With Bethany Scholarship for Refugees In His Name

BETHANY, W.Va. – Thomas Buergenthal, class of 1957, world-renowned judge and one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachenhausen concentration camps, will deliver the keynote address at Bethany College’s 179th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m.

An uncompromising advocate for human rights, Buergenthal served as the American judge on the International Court of Justice from 2000 to 2010 and was a judge and president of the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights from 1979 to 1991. He also served as judge and president of the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank (1989-94), vice chairman of the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland, and was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador, and the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee.

From 1989 to 2000 and again from 2010 to 2016, Buergenthal was the Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law & Jurisprudence at George Washington University Law School. He also served as Dean of the Washington College of Law of the American University from 1980-1985. His other academic posts have included: Professor of Law, State University of New York (Buffalo) Law School, Fulbright & Jaworski Professor, University of Texas Law School, and I.T. Cohen Professor, Emory University Law School. While at Emory, he also served as Director of the Human Rights Program.

Buergenthal earned the following academic degrees: B.A. (1957), Bethany College, West Virginia; J.D. (1960), New York University Law School (Root-Tilden Scholar); LL.M. (1961) and S.J.D (1968), Harvard Law School.

He is the recipient of the following honorary degrees: Bethany College, 1981; University of Heidelberg, 1986; Free University of Brussels (V.U.B), 1994; State University of New York (Buffalo), 2000; American University (Washington, D.C.), 2002; University of Minnesota, 2003; George Washington University, 2004; University of Göttingen, 2007; New York University, 2008; St. Edward’s University (Austin, Texas), 2009; Brandeis University (2011); Brooklyn Law School (2011); and the University for Peace (Costa Rica, 2014).

Buergenthal is the author and co-author of more than a dozen books and a large number of essays on international law and human rights subjects. In his memoir, A Lucky Child, he describes his experiences as one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.

The recipient of various prizes and awards, Buergenthal holds the 1997 Goler T. Butcher Medal for Excellence in Human Rights, American Society of International Law; 2002 Manley O. Hudson Medal, American Society of International Law; 2008 International Justice Prize, Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation; 2015 Elie Wiesel Award, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; 2015 Olympic Order, International Olympic Committee; 2016 Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, German Federal Republic; and 2018 Stockholm Human Rights Award

About Bethany College

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.

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