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Holocaust Scholar Stephen M. Berk and Albany Medical Center President & CEO James J. Barba Named 2013 Citizen Laureates

Dinner and Awards Program, October 24

Stephen M. Berk, left, and James J. Barba, who will be honored as University at Albany 2013 Citizen Laureates on October 24,

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 3, 2013) — The University at Albany Foundation will honor internationally renowned Holocaust scholar and Union College professor of history Stephen M. Berk and Albany Medical Center President and CEO James J. Barba as the 2013 Citizen Laureates.

The Citizen Laureate Awards recognize outstanding leaders in business and industry, government, and academia, and are the most prestigious honors bestowed by The University at Albany Foundation.

Berk will receive the 2013 Academic Laureate and Barba the Community Laureate. Both men will be honored at a dinner and awards ceremony October 24, 2013, 6 p.m., at UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena. John Nigro, president of Nigro Companies and the 2010 recipient of the Community Laureate Award, will serve as honorary chair of the event.

Stephen M. Berk, Academic Laureate

Stephen M. Berk, who holds the Henry and Sally Chair in Holocaust and Jewish Studies at Union College, is former chair of the college's Department of History and director of its Program in Russian and Eastern European Studies. He is the author of Year of Crisis, Year of Hope: Russian Jewry and the Pogroms of 1881-1882 (Greenwood Press, 1985). At the present time he is writing a book entitled, Our People Are Your People: American Jewry and the Struggle for Civil Rights 1954-1965, which looks at the American civil rights movement and the myths and misunderstandings that surround the Black-Jewish relationship.

Praised in both author Lisa Birnbach’s New and Improved College Book and Edward B. Fiske’s Fiske Guide to Colleges, as one of academe’s most powerful lecturers, Berk's course on the Holocaust at Union is the most popular one offered at the College. A consultant to the Wiesenthal Holocaust Center in Los Angeles, Berk in 1992 made a set of six hour-long audio taped lectures on the Holocaust that have been sold nationwide.

Berk’s well-received book on the pogroms of 1881-1882 deals with anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe and is an important contribution to the pre-history of the Holocaust in the Jewish heartland. He has written articles on Russian and Jewish history, anti-Semitism, and the Middle East, and lectured throughout the U.S and Canada, including at such distinguished colleges and universities as Princeton, Vanderbilt, The University of Texas at Austin, and Williams College. He is frequently consulted by media from newspapers, television and radio, including the BBC.

In 1996, Professor Berk received the prestigious Holocaust Memorial Award from the Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center. The citation accompanying the award stated: "On the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Nuremberg trials, the Holocaust Memorial Award honors Dr. Berk's years of dedication to understanding and education as a world-wide lecturer and spellbinding speaker on the lessons of the Holocaust and its meaning for today.” In 2010 Professor Berk was designated an Israel Hero for his defense and advocacy of the State Israel by JERNY, Jewish Educational Resources of New York.

Berk received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, his M.A. in history from the University of Chicago, and his B.A., with honors in history, from the University of Pennsylvania.

James J. Barba, Community Laureate

James J. Barba has been president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center, the only academic health sciences center in northeastern New York, since 1995. He also served as the chairman of the board of directors of Albany Med from 1994-2006.

In his role as president and CEO, Barba oversees the largest hospital in 25 counties; Albany Medical College, one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, where 40 percent of the doctors and health care professionals from the Capital Region are trained as well as a research operation with projects totaling $30 million in funding; a workforce of more than 7,200, making Albany Med one of the region’s largest private employers; and a physicians practice group of 350.

Barba is currently directing the most ambitious expansion in the Center’s 174-year history, and the largest such project in the region’s history. This eight-year project, totaling more than $500 million, is transforming the New Scotland-Park South neighborhood where the Center stands.

Well recognized in the arena of health care and health care reform, Barba has served on numerous special commissions and councils by gubernatorial appointment and at the request of his peers, including the board of directors of the Health Care Association of New York State, with which he is working to re-design the Medicaid program to make it more efficient and effective. He also served Governor Mario Cuomo as chair of the state’s Special Advisory Commission to Restore Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care insurer – which ultimately put the state on track to save billions of dollars. Previously, Barba was chair of the board of trustees of the Trudeau Institute, a biomedical research organization in Saranac Lake.

He has also served on the boards of numerous area organizations – particularly those related to regional economic development, including the Center for Economic Growth and the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, which he chaired. In 2011, he was named by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Capital Region l Economic Development Council, one of 10 across the state, charged with creating a new model to stimulate economic development and create jobs in the region. He currently serves as the council’s co-chair. He also serves on the board of directors of Park Playhouse, a free summer theater in Albany Med’s neighborhood.

Barba has received numerous accolades over the years: “Executive of the Year” from the Business Review; the “Career Achievement Award” from Siena College; and the “Distinguished Citizen” award from the Twin Rivers Council Inc., Boy Scouts of America. In addition, he was inducted into the Tech Valley Business Hall of Fame in 2011. He has been cited for his leadership in health care by the American Heart Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He is a frequent lecturer and author on health care topics and health care policy.

Formerly he served as senior counsel to the Albany law firm, Hiscock & Barclay. He is a graduate, cum laude, of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and a graduate, summa cum laude, of Siena College, from which he holds an honorary doctorate.

John Nigro

John Nigro

John Nigro, Honorary Chairman

John Nigro of Loudonville, N.Y., is president of Nigro Companies, a real estate development and management company, as well as a board member of the Center for Economic Growth, Albany Medical Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, The Capital Region Youth Tennis Foundation, and Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Nigro received the Community Laureate Award in 2010, and just recently received an Honorary Degree from Siena College. The Nigro family and the Companies are known for their philanthropic support of the Capital Region.

Funds raised through the Citizen Laureate Awards event will support The University at Albany Foundation’s student programs and its ability to ensure access to the finest higher education experience possible. Established in 1967 to encourage philanthropic support, the Foundation continues to advance the University's strategic goals and sponsors efforts to build ties to the community.

To learn more about the event, visit the UAlbany Citizen Laureate website or contact the Office of University Events at (518) 442-5310.

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