June 6, 2016

Raoul Wallenberg Foundation to honor Steve Kerr’s grandparents for saving Armenians


The Board of the IRWF has unanimously resolved to award the Raoul Wallenberg Medal to the late Dr. Stanley E. Kerr and his wife, Elsa, for their devoted work in favor of Armenian women and children in the 1920’s who had managed to survive the great tragedy which started to unfold in 1915.

The relief effort was organized and provided by the Near East Relief (NER) and among the American volunteers was they 21 year old Stanley Kerr, at that time, a junior officer with the US Medical Corps. After having served in Aleppo he was transferred to Marash, in Anatolia, where he headed the American assistance operations, at a great risk for the Turks regarded the Americans as collaborators of the Armenians. In 1922, he moved to Beirut where he and his wife Elas, established the Near East Relief Orphanage for Armenian children at Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon. In this position, the couple was instrumental in aiding a significant number of Armenian mothers and children.

In 1925, Stanley Kerr earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, a field where he distinguished himself, and returned to Beirut to chair the Department of Biochemistry of the American University of Beirut. In 1965, he retired with the rank of Distinguished Professor and was awarded the Order of Merit from the Republic of Lebanon.

Besides their actual help to Armenian orphans, Stanley wrote a remarkable memoir documenting his experiences in Marash – The Lions of Marash: Personal Experiences with American Near Esast Relief, 1919-1922), providing a first-hand account of the plight suffered by the Armenian people.

One of the couple’s sons, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, an acclaimed scholar specialized in Middle Eastern Studies, became the President of the American University of Beirut and was tragically assassinated in Beirut by extremists in 1984.

Malcolm’s son, Steve Kerr, was a prominent Basketball player and currently head coach of the Golden State Warriors. In a recent interview, Steve told about how proud he feels about his grandparents.

The Raoul Wallenberg Medal will be posthumously bestowed to Stanley and Elsa Kerr, in the hands of their grandchildren and it will be coordinated with them, together with other commemorative initiatives such as a special stamp dedicated to the heroic couple.

Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman of the IRWF, said that “Dr. Stanley Kerr and his wife Elsa are an example of pure humanitarianism and as such, they should be recognized and remembered. They should serve as role models for the young generations”.