Acclaimed for her project, “The Oral History of Utah’s Peace Activists,” which includes a collection of 155 interviews from peace activists across the state, former UVU professor Kathryn French was named the 2012 recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award at a ceremony held Sunday, Sept. 30 at Tracy Aviary in Liberty Park.
Dressed in a cobalt blue shirt and a long, turquoise skirt, the behavioral science scholar accepted the award from Allan Smart, vice president of Gandhi Alliance for Peace, a non-profit organization based out of Utah, in front of a crowd of 175 community members.
“I consider this award to represent all of the Utah peace activists, not only the ones who have been interviewed, but all of you,” French said. “The goals of this project have been to preserve historical stories of people and events in Utah, and to record motivations and personalities of these wonderful heroes and heroines.”
The Oral History of Utah’s Peace Activists has been a project six years in the making. The archive, most of which has been transcribed and is available online, includes interviews from former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, UVU senior artist in residence Alex Caldiero and Stanley Holmes, a Vietnam War veteran whose activism began when he returned to the states after the war.
Debuted in March 2012, teachers, musicians and health and community advocates are also included among the interviews.
French said she considered the award for her project a “double honor.”
“I got my real rewards from getting to know the activists,” French said. “This [award] is icing on the cake.”
Micheal Iroz, French’s stepson, said he was surprised when French told him the news of the award.
“It’s really exciting, she certainly deserves it. She came in to my life when I was very young and was a really wonderful influence. She taught me respect for nature and taught me how to read,” he said.
French thanked six Indian youth dancers, a student for performing a Moslem call to prayer and a host of other vocalists who performed preceding the award’s presentation. The day’s program of events were in celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on Oct. 2.
After retiring from 17 years at UVU, French now plans to move to Tucson, Ariz. this month to spend time with family. She said she also intends to “live peace and justice out loud,” outside of higher education which she said was limiting at times.
“The words ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ are suspect to Utah Valley University administrators and trustees,” French said. “They are red flags that might offend a conservative community. The word ‘peace’ is a particular problem. While UVU has a robust minor in Peace and Justice Studies, we have not been able to persuade our president that a Peace and Justice major is politically correct for a state university in Utah County.”
For more information on French’s peace activist archive, visit http://www.uvu.edu/library/archives/peace.html.