OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe will be awarded the twenty-second University of Michigan Wallenberg Medal on Tuesday, October 23. After the medal presentation, Gunnoe will give the Wallenberg Lecture at the university.
The award is named for Raoul Wallenberg, and this year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth.
In announcing this honor, the University of Michigan publicity said, “Through her extraordinary work and personal engagement, she exemplifies the courage and commitment to the humanitarian values of Raoul Wallenberg.”
A 1935 graduate of the University of Michigan College of Architecture, Swedish diplomat Wallenberg saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. Working in Budapest in the late 1930s, Wallenberg came into contact with many Jewish refugees from Europe. In 1944, at the request of Jewish organizations and the American War Refugee Board, the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest. Over the course of six months, Wallenberg issued thousands of protective passports. He confronted Hungarian and German guards to secure the release of Jews whom he claimed were under Swedish protection, placing some 15,000 Jews into thirty-one Safe Houses.
After reporting to Soviet headquarters in Budapest on January 17, 1945, Wallenberg vanished into the Soviet Gulag. Although the Russians claim that Wallenberg died in 1947, the results of numerous investigations into his whereabouts remain inconclusive.
Other recipients of the Wallenberg Medal include Aung San Suu Kyi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.
In 2009, Maria won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work.