On June 24, 2021, Adelphi University will honor David Machlis, PhD, an associate professor of finance and economics at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, by presenting him with the inaugural President's Humanitarian Award.
The occasion—the 21st Annual President’s Gala—will also launch the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund, an endowment fund to combat hatred, intolerance, antisemitism and systemic racism in honor of Dr. Machlis, a self-described “crazy professor, dreamer, designer, creator, performer, micromanager, networker and negotiator”—and a passionately committed advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I can’t think of a better time to recognize your leadership and accomplishment than Adelphi’s 125th anniversary,” President Christine M. Riordan, PhD, wrote to Dr. Machlis in announcing his award. “I am in awe of your lifelong dedication to combat[ing] intolerance and racism in our world.”
For Dr. Machlis, who just completed his 54th year of teaching at Adelphi and who is a 2018 recipient of the University’s Teaching Excellence Award, receiving the President’s Humanitarian Award is a truly culminating experience. “Adelphi is a most important part of my existence. But being recognized by President Riordan for my global work is indeed an acclimation of my total accomplishments,” he said.
Embracing the Past to Ensure the Future
Dr. Machlis is also a co-founder and vice chairman of the International March of the Living (MOTL), an annual educational program that brings people from around the world to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust and to explore the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
In 1999, he co-founded the MOTL’s March of Remembrance and Hope (MRH) project, which has a stated mission goal to “teach that all human beings are equal, precious and valued.” In non-pandemic years, high school and university students of diverse religions and backgrounds have visited Holocaust-related sites such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka to see, remember and reflect on the horrors of intolerance. “Typically 10,000 to 12,000 people attend the March, and a third are not Jewish,” Dr. Machlis noted.
“The Holocaust is not a Jewish issue—it is a universal issue,” he insisted. “We must learn from the past so that a more tolerant and just society evolves for the betterment of all humankind. We must embrace the past to ensure the future.”
Making an International Impact
As world-renowned Holocaust scholars and human rights activists—including Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Irwin Cotler, Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy; U.S. Department of Justice Eli M. Rosenbaum, JD; and Alvin J. and Shirley Slater Chair in Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Boston University Steven T. Katz—have noted, Dr. Machlis has developed countless successful MOTL and MRH programs that have profoundly enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of students and university educators the world over.
In 2006, for example, Dr. Machlis helped facilitate Oprah Winfrey’s historic broadcast with Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel at Auschwitz and Birkenau. No detail escaped Dr. Machlis’ attention—from picking up Wiesel at the airport and spending a memorable day with him, to having friends shovel snow off the train tracks entering Birkenau so that the tracks were visible in the film. “It’s minutia,” he exclaimed. “I do everything!”
In 2012, he brought 16 elderly World War II concentration camp liberators—including one who had unlocked the gates of Buchenwald—on the March of the Living. “It was my dream to identify the liberators, create a program and see to every detail, such as having a physician and an ambulance on tap, or renting uniforms for those who didn’t have their own,” he recalled. “They were looked upon by thousands of youths as heroes and led that year’s march.” An award-winning News 12 Long Island broadcast resulted from his efforts.
Thanks to an ongoing friendship with Justice Gabriel Bach, who was the deputy prosecutor in the historic 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann and a judge of the Supreme Court of Israel, in 2018, Dr. Machlis was able to arrange a historic live broadcast from Israel cosponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education, a division of the New Jersey State Bar Association, which gave viewers the option for continuing legal education credits in December 2018.
Exploring Medicine and Morality
According to Dr. Machlis, doctors and nurses who view “Medicine and Morality: Lessons from the Holocaust and COVID-19″—a 90-minute online program that he recently produced— can earn continuing medical education credits. The program, which premiered on April 7, this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, was sponsored by IMOL, Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, and the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, in cooperation with the USC Shoah Foundation.
“The program took several months of very full-time work to develop and includes some of the most renowned scholars in the area of medical ethics and the Holocaust, who were videotaped on location—including presenters in Australia, Israel and Germany,” Dr. Machlis explained. “A special feature of the program is the presentation of the Moral Courage in Medicine Award to Dr. Anthony Fauci.”
Impacting Adelphi Students
In nominating Dr. Machlis for Adelphi’s 2018 Teaching Excellence Award, his department colleagues said, “David makes the rest of us seem like mere mortals in the classroom. Of course, try as we might, we will never be quite like him. There is, after all, only one David Machlis.”
A noted classroom performer beloved by his students, Dr. Machlis purposefully promotes equity and diversity among his students by treating everyone as a special person. He said, “What more gratification can one ask for than changing people’s lives? There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing my performance work.”
President Riordan would agree, writing to Dr. Machlis that “your work at Adelphi has made an important impact on our students—empowering them to make a positive difference.”
As a recipient of the Adelphi Teaching Excellence Award, he spoke at the University matriculation ceremony in August 2018. At the time, he committed his $5,000 award to the University to fund programs in diversity. With this generous gesture, Dr. Machlis prompted the official launch of the endowment fund to combat hatred, intolerance, antisemitism and systemic racism that honors him—and that will be supported by contributions to the President’s Gala.