Inauguration of the Milton R. Konvitz Collection in the Old Library

By Sara Sanabria

On the evening of March 14th 2017, our campus had the pleasure of hosting an inaugural ceremony for the Milton R. Konvitz Collection. It comprises about 2,000 books from Mr. Konvitz’s personal collection that has been generously donated by the Konvitz family.

The evening ceremony opened with an introduction by Campus Director Nathalie Jacquet followed by an elegant speech by President of SciencesPo Paris, Frederic Mion. His address centered on the topic of good fortune: that of our school for receiving such a collection, and that of the books for finding such a welcoming home.

Professor Konvitz’s son, Joseph Konvitz, then took the stage to give a speech about his father and his book collection. He outlined Professor Konvitz life;  how being born in Palestine during the early 20th century and then fleeing to the United States helped influence his love of books and passion for using law as a method of creating a more just and equal world. Joseph described how his father was inspired by three main themes throughout his life: “the pursuit of American Ideals”, “application of knowledge to solve problems” and “reconciliation across generations”. These themes inspired him to work on desegregation in the United States, spearhead the creation of the Statutory Law in Liberia, and lead him to inspire other political figures, such as Hannah Arendt and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The speech concluded with Joseph reflecting on the appropriateness of the location of the collection as the city of Reims played a role in the reconciliation of Franco-German relations and  this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. By having the books here, his father’s legacy will continue to inspire justice and knowledge as Milton did throughout his life.

Following the presentation held in building D, a small cocktail reception was held in the Old Library to mark the new home for the 2,000 books. Joseph took the microphone once more and explained how the books are organized by order of their influence on Milton’s life. Starting from the left back wall, the books start with philosophy and classic literature such as Hume, Kant and Plato, then transition to legal works on the back wall and works by family and friends on the right wall.

Later, in a one-on-one conversation, Joseph noted that students will be able to find quite a few works by Emerson, as his ideas about nature as part of a greater philosophical understanding and individualism had great influence on his father. When asked what books he would personally recommend, Joseph replied: “that’s impossible, there isn’t just one, start with the classics then maybe move on to Erasmus and Thomas Moore”.

The collection will be accessible for on-site consultation for students as a way to complement the vast resources available on our Campus. For more information on the collection please contact the campus library, or go see the Milton R.Konvitz Collection for yourself!

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