DELAWARE, Ohio – After his family fled Nazi Germany in 1938, Stephen A. Ollendorff and his mother spent a year living in the home of Ohio Wesleyan University sociology professor Guy Sarvis, Ph.D., and his wife, Maud.
The couple’s understanding and acceptance of all people served as an inspiration to Ollendorff, who today is president of the Ollendorff Center for Human and Religious Understanding, a nonprofit foundation that promotes tolerance among people of all faiths worldwide.
On May 11, Ollendorff will share his journey and inspire a new generation when he returns to Delaware to deliver the keynote address at Ohio Wesleyan’s 170th commencement ceremony. The event will begin at 1 p.m. in Phillips Glen outside Phillips Hall, 50 S. Henry St., Delaware. The ceremony, including Ollendorff’s remarks, will be streamed live online at stream.owu.edu.
Anthony M. Peddle, president of the OWU Class of 2014, said he believes Ollendorff’s powerful story of struggle and success will resonate with his classmates.
“I hope that each member of the graduating class will be able to gain something from his address and apply it to their lives,” said Peddle, an early childhood education major and English minor from Detroit, Mich. “I am very excited to hear Ollendorff’s story and how Ohio Wesleyan changed his life, just as it has changed ours over these last four years.”
After Ollendorff and his parents arrived in the United States, the family separated for a year. Ollendorff’s father, Ulrich, traveled to New York to establish himself as an ophthalmologist, while Ollendorff and his mother, Anne, sought refuge in Delaware with the Sarvises.
Though Ollendorff and his parents survived the Holocaust, his father’s entire family was lost to its violence.
In 2001, Ollendorff and his wife, Bjørg, founded the Ollendorff Center for Human and Religious Understanding, based in Tenafly, N.J. In June 2013, the center contributed $100,000 to Ohio Wesleyan to create the Dr. Guy Sarvis Endowed Travel/Research Grant, which supports cross-cultural understanding and tolerance. At the same time, Ohio Wesleyan created the Dr. Guy Sarvis Award to present annually to a student who, like Sarvis, has worked to foster acceptance.
“I am truly honored to be invited as the commencement speaker,” Ollendorff said. “Professor Guy Sarvis has been one of the great influences in my life and with the establishment by Ohio Wesleyan of the Dr. Guy Sarvis travel/research and award programs, I feel a very special connection to OWU.”
Ollendorff earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia University and his Juris Doctor at Columbia Law School. Today, he is an attorney with K&L Gates LLP, a U.S.-based firm with more than 2,000 lawyers in 48 offices on five continents. Learn more at theollendorffcenter.org. Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s 2014 commencement ceremony at commencement.owu.edu.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 42 states and 37 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.