Professor Emeritus Sidney Bolkosky passes away June 14

Sidney M BolkoskyHis door was always open. Whether you were an Honors Program student looking for guidance or a Holocaust survivor ready to share your story—his caring attention encouraged trust and inspired confidence.

Sidney M. Bolkosky, longtime professor of history and director of the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive at University of Michigan-Dearborn, passed away June 14, 2013. Bolkosky was married to Lori and had two children, Miriam and Gabriel.

Bolkosky retired from UM-Dearborn in April 2012 after 39 years of service.

“Sid Bolkosky was an inspiring and accomplished teacher and researcher. His work with the Honors Program and Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive will leave a lasting legacy with the university, the region and our society,” said UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little.

Bolkosky joined the UM-Dearborn faculty as an assistant professor in 1972. He was promoted to associate professor in 1977 and professor in 1984. He served as director of the Honors Program from 1983-1986 and 1990-2012.

“I remember when Sid began as director of the Honors Program. He inherited a file cabinet—an empty file cabinet. So we grew the program, one student at a time,” said Michele Rushman, senior administrative assistant for the Honors Program.

As director of the program, Bolkosky developed the curriculum and recruited faculty to join in his efforts. The program grew from 30 students to approximately 70 students during his tenure.

In 1981, Bolkosky began to focus his research on Holocaust survivors. It started with one interview but grew to more than 300.

“Word spread among the Jewish community about professor Bolkosky’s caring and attentive approach to interviewing Holocaust survivors, many of whom were breaking years of silence and talking about their experiences for the first time,” said Barbara Kriigel, associate director for circulation and technical services at Mardigian Library.

In 1982, as the collection grew, Mardigian Library began storing and duplicating interviews for use by Bolkosky’s students. The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive was established in 1993.

Since that time, copies of interviews and transcripts have been sent to Fortunoff Video Archives in Yale University and to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. More than 4 million people have visited to listen to the interviews online.

“Professor Bolkosky was a pioneer in both Holocaust research and education,” said Jamie Wraight, curator of the Archive. “The Voice/Vision Archive stands as a permanent legacy to his commitment to documenting this dark period in human history.”

Bolkosky’s research and teaching earned him accolades on campus and throughout the community. He was one of a very select group to have received all three of UM-Dearborn’s major faculty awards: the UM-Dearborn Distinguished Teaching Award (1975), the UM-Dearborn Distinguished Faculty Research Award (1995) and the UM-Dearborn Distinguished Service Award (2002). He was the university’s first William E. Stirton Professor in Social Sciences in 1999 and the first recipient of the Distinguished Career Metropolitan Impact Award in 2012.

“Sid was an amazing teacher, incredibly knowledgeable and enlightened. Students always left the room saying, ‘I feel like I’ve learned so much,’” Rushman said. “In or out of the classroom, the students were always first.”

Last year, two alumni ensured Bolkosky’s legacy would continue. Bree (’00 A.B., ’05 M.S.) and Joseph (’07 A.B.) Gunter honored Bolkosky and retired historian Erik W. Austin through the creation of the Austin-Bolkosky Scholarship Fund. The fund will provide a four-year scholarship at $1,000 per year to a non-traditional UM-Dearborn freshman who pursues a major within the Department of Social Sciences.

His family asks that in lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations be made to the Voice/Vision Archive. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and others from the campus community may send notes and cards to the Chancellor’s Office (1070 AB) to be forwarded to the family.

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