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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Fund Honors Professor’s Memory, Supports Cultural Experiences for OWU Students

DELAWARE, Ohio – When Stephen Ollendorff, a Tenafly resident and author of the children’s book, The Brave Little Boat,  was a child, he and his family fled Nazi Germany to avoid religious persecution.

After they arrived in the United States, the family separated for a year. Ollendorff’s father, Ulrich, headed to New York to establish his credentials as an ophthalmologist, while Ollendorff and his mother, Anne, traveled to Delaware, Ohio, to live with Ohio Wesleyan University professor Guy Sarvis and his wife, Maud.

Today, Ollendorff, an attorney, is president of the Tenafly, N.J.-based Ollendorff Center for Human and Religious Understanding, which is honoring Sarvis’s legacy with a five-year, $100,000 gift to Ohio Wesleyan to create the Dr. Guy Sarvis Endowed Travel/Research Grant.

Sarvis, Ph.D., a sociology professor, devoted much of his life to promoting and living by example the virtues and values of cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity to racial and religious diversity, enhanced by international travel and exposure.

“The Sarvis Endowed Travel/Research Grant will be awarded annually to Ohio Wesleyan students who seek experiences in which they immerse themselves in cultures different from their own and, in the process, gain a greater understanding of the diversity that enriches the world in which they live,” said Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “We are grateful to Stephen and Bjørg Ollendorff and to the Ollendorff Center for this meaningful gift.”

Grant recipients will be known as Sarvis Fellows, with the endowment providing permanent support for two Sarvis Fellows each year. Ohio Wesleyan also will create the Dr. Guy Sarvis Award to be given annually to a student who has helped to foster cross-cultural understanding and tolerance, on campus and around the globe.

“Given the social constraints of the times, Professor Sarvis demonstrated his great courage and humanity by reaching out to the discriminated, even though he and his family were not subject to such discrimination,” Ollendorff said. “His true compassion and humility were underscored by undertaking these causes through personal, quiet social interaction such as welcoming Jewish and Black people into his home as part of his family. I am so grateful that Ohio Wesleyan has undertaken to recognize a true role model.”

While Ollendorff and his parents survived the Holocaust, the rest of his father’s family– including his grandparents, uncle, and great aunt – were lost to the unprecedented violence. In 2001, Ollendorff and his wife, Bjørg, founded the Ollendorff Center for Human and Religious Understanding. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation works to promote tolerance among people of all faiths worldwide. Learn more about the center at http://theollendorffcenter.org.