After being exposed to the issue of genocide during his undergraduate years at Hobart, Dr. Edward Franks ’72 decided to inspire a new generation of global citizens by funding the first Genocide Symposium in 1999, as well as the second Human Rights and Genocide Symposium that was held this academic year.
“Dr. Frank’s support and involvement has been invaluable to the symposium,” says Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski, a member of the symposium’s steering committee. “We certainly appreciate the financial support which has been generous and has allowed us to initiate the series over a decade ago and to bring to campus some of the most important scholars working in the field as well as writers, genocide survivors and activists.”
The Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, which began on Feb. 10, and for which Dr. Franks was in attendance, featured President’s Forum speaker Force Commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire. A Canadian senator, humanitarian and author, Dallaire addressed his work in Rwanda as well as his continued efforts to fight genocide.
Since that initial event, the Symposium featured several events. On March 4, Professor Robert Skloot in a dramatic reading of his play, “If the Whole Body Dies: Raphael Lemkin and the Treaty Against Genocide,” which focuses on the life of Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term “genocide” and who worked tirelessly to get the term adopted into international law. On March 8, Invisible Children screened the movie “Kony 2012,” a film that deals with the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and has since become the most viral video in history, spreading awareness of the genocide in Uganda. On March 12, a workshop was given by Matthew T. Simpson ’04, a lawyer who spent the past few years working for Public International Law & Policy Group, a global pro bono firm, as one of two accredited legal advisers to the Darfurian delegation negotiating a peace agreement with the Government of Sudan as part of the United Nations/African Union Darfur Peace Process. On March 26, the Symposium screened the documentary “The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur.”
The final event of the semester, on Thursday, April 5, featured Gretchen Steidle Wallace, the founder of Global Grassroots, co-author of “The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur,” who presented a workshop and offered a public lecture.
In addition to his financial support, Dr. Franks was active in the planning of this year’s symposium, helping to shape the program by encouraging active student participation and sustained conversations.
“Dr. Franks has modeled for students the role that an alumnus can play in the ongoing intellectual life of the Colleges,” says Dobkowski. “His second gift was certainly critical to the programming for the second stage of the symposium. It gave us a ‘second wind’ and allowed us to be ambitious in our choice of speakers and to expand our horizons and thinking not only for this year but for next.”
Dr. Franks has galvanized the program to continue reflecting on this idea within the greater HWS community. He was also pleased that the program offered educational programming that was open to the wider Geneva community.
“I first became involved with the issue of genocide when I read a book about the subject that belonged to my college roommate, Robert Finlayson ’72,” explains Dr. Franks. “The topic galvanized me to seek out Professor Richard Heaton, who was retired and living in Geneva. I approached him to ask if we could do something to educate and expose the community to different speakers about the geographies of genocide.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Franks’ initial interest in the topic led him to propose the project and, in order to see it realized, prompted him to make a gift that funded such prominent speakers as Holocaust chronicler Elie Wiesel, world-renowned Holocaust artist Samuel Bak and democratic intellectual Cornel West.
Initially established and funded largely through the generosity of Dr. Franks, the second Genocide Symposium also received support from the Young Memorial Trust, President’s Forum Series, the CCL, the Fisher Center, Africana Studies, Religious Studies, the Human Rights Collective and STAND (Student Anti-genocide Coalition).
While at Hobart, Dr. Franks earned a B.S. in chemistry and participated in track and lacrosse. Elected to Epsilon Psi Sigma honor society, he received the Chemical Rubber Company Award for outstanding freshman chemistry student. He then went on to earn his medical degree from Albany Medical College. He completed his residency at Albany Medical Center Hospital and went on to complete a fellowship at Baylor College in Texas.
In the photo above, President Mark D. Gearan, Dr. Edward Franks ’72, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter gather in Albright Auditorium.