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Memory of Late Historian and Human Rights Activist Alison Des Forges Honored by UB Scholarship

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: September 4, 2012

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A new UB scholarship will honor the life and work of the late historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has established a scholarship in memory of Alison L. Des Forges, the late historian and human rights activist who was killed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo on Feb. 12, 2009.

Working with the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee, UB created the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund to provide financial support for Buffalo Public Schools graduates who are committed to studying human rights and social justice.

UB faculty member Roger Des Forges, PhD, a professor of history, said that the scholarship grew out of a desire to pay tribute to the causes his wife held dear.

"When we lost Alison, family and friends wanted to act to keep her memory alive and advance the causes she devoted her life to: one of those was improving K-12 public education in Buffalo; another was protecting human rights in Central Africa," he said.

Des Forges said the scholarship offers a practical way to promote both interests.

"Relatively few Buffalo public school graduates attend the University at Buffalo, in some cases because of a lack of financial resources," he said. "We hope this scholarship will encourage secondary school students to inform themselves about issues related to human rights and social justice, and inspire and enable them to attend UB, where they can develop programs of study in human rights, and eventually continue Alison's work in defending human rights and social justice for generations to come."

The scholarship will be open to Buffalo Public School graduates who enroll at UB in any major and will be awarded for the first time in fall 2013. A committee is being established to help in the recruitment and selection process, according to A. Scott Weber, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

"The University at Buffalo feels a great sense of pride and commitment in honoring the ideals of Alison L. Des Forges through the scholarship," Weber said. "To know that each year a student from the Buffalo Public Schools will be helped for the next four years as they pursue the same goals that she worked for with such tenacity will be a lasting tribute."

An internationally recognized authority on human rights abuses, Alison Des Forges tirelessly advocated on behalf of citizens of Central Africa as a senior advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. Her landmark book, "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda," awakened the world to the horrors of the 1994 killings in that nation. The authoritative account, along with her decades of devotion to her work, earned Des Forges a MacArthur Foundation Award in 1999.

Des Forges said his wife would be grateful for the efforts of so many people who have worked to keep her memory alive.

"I think that Alison would say thank you to all those who have contributed to establishing this scholarship. She would think that it is an appropriate memorial to her and to others who have given their lives to protect the human rights of all members of the human community. She would feel happiness that the causes for which she worked will continue to be carried on in her name and in perpetuity."

For more information about the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit http://giving.buffalo.edu/desforges.