BOSTON — February 16, 2011 — Gerda Weissmann Klein, curriculum author and Gerda and Kurt Klein Scholarship namesake for global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, at an exclusive ceremony hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC, yesterday, February 15. Klein was named a Medal of Freedom recipient in November 2010 for her lifelong commitment to promoting tolerance, respect and empowerment through education and community service.
Klein, 86, is a Polish-American Holocaust survivor who has spent nearly seven decades sharing her miraculous story in service of domestic and global humanitarian causes, particularly naturalization and citizenship. Her prolific works include eight books and a grades 6–12 curriculum, The Path to Citizenship, which she co-authored with her granddaughter for HMH. The Path to Citizenship teaches students about the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, and even includes materials for a mock naturalization ceremony.
“To us, Gerda is more than an author; she is a friend,” said Rita Schaefer, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Comprehensive Curriculum for HMH’s Education Group. “Her acclaimed curriculum and her selflessness in life teach us equally powerful lessons.”
Shortly after 1999’s Columbine High School tragedy, Rita and HMH Sales Representative Sandy Friedin brought Klein to Colorado to conduct a series of healing assemblies with Columbine students, faculty and community members. Klein’s most recent project is the Arizona-based nonprofit organization Citizenship Counts, which supports teachers nationwide by giving them the necessary materials to teach citizenship studies in the classroom.
HMH established the Gerda and Kurt Klein Scholarship in 2007 to annually recognize one high school student who fosters ethnic and religious tolerance and actively minimizes bigotry within his or her community. The scholarship commemorates Klein’s humanitarian spirit, as well as that of her liberator and late husband Kurt, a former U.S. Army Lieutenant who passed away in 2002
“There is nobody more deserving of this award than Gerda,” said Barry O′Callaghan, CEO of HMH. “We are incredibly proud of her accomplishments and thrilled that President Obama has joined us in recognizing her extraordinary contribution to United States history, as well as the education and character of its future citizens and leaders.”
Klein was honored along with former President George H. W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Congressman John Lewis, John H. Adams, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffett, Jasper Johns, Tom Little, Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia Mendez, Stan Musial, Bill Russell, Jean Kennedy Smith and John J. Sweeney.
About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a global education and learning company that is leading the way with innovative solutions and approaches to the challenges facing education today. The world’s largest provider of educational products and solutions for pre-K–12 learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt develops and delivers interactive, results-driven learning solutions that advance teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Through curricula excellence and technology innovation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt collaborates with school districts, administrators, teachers, parents and students. Today, HMH education products and services are used by 57 million students throughout all 50 U.S. states and 120 countries. With origins dating back to 1832, the Company also publishes an extensive line of reference works and award-winning literature for adults and young readers. For more information, visit www.hmhpub.com.