The Orange County Human Relations Commission will honor UCI's Olive Tree Initiative student group at its Awards 38 event May 7. For 38 years, the commission has recognized individuals, law enforcement agencies, schools and community organizations for their contributions to human relations in Orange County. The Olive Tree Initiative, a diverse group of UCI students who traveled to Israel and Palestine in September and brought back to the campus community newfound insights about the conflicts there, will receive a Community Leader Award. Chancellor Michael Drake will co-host Awards 38, along with Sandra Hutchens, Orange County sheriff-coroner. The event will be held 5:45-9 p.m. at the Grove of Anaheim. Tickets can be purchased from the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
Humanities Gateway, the newest addition to the Humanities Plaza, is on schedule to open this fall. The building will bring under one roof the School of Humanities' multidisciplinary centers, including the International Center for Writing and Translation, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, the Humanities Center, and HumaniTech. It also will house the Office of the Dean; the departments of art history, Asian American studies, film and media studies, and women's studies; and the program in African American studies. A dedication ceremony will be held in early October.
Just two months after the Free Wheelchair Mission kicked off its 2008 national tour at UCI, engineering students here were hard at work on a wheelchair prototype that would soon help people worldwide get around more easily. Free Wheelchair Mission, which aims to "provide the transforming gift of mobility to the physically disabled poor in developing countries," has distributed more than 370,000 wheelchairs to people in at least 71 nations. Its goal is 20 million. Don Schoendorfer, president and founder, used a customized plastic lawn chair and mountain-bike tires to create an inexpensive, easy-to-assemble wheelchair that satisfies the greatest range of needs. To augment his efforts, the nonprofit partnered with The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, enlisting the aid of students in the Engineering Design in Industry course.
Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, director of UCI's International Center for Writing and Translation, is one of 14 nominees for the 2009 Man Booker International Prize. Established in 2005, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction in English or whose work is generally available in English through translation. In his book Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance, published in February, Ngugi explores how original African cultures have been decimated during periods of slavery, colonialism, and globalization, and he emphasizes the importance of saving the continent's cultural future.
Peter "Sig" Odegard, music professor emeritus, died March 11 at the age of 80. A composer and violist, Odegard founded and directed the Irvine Conservatory of Music. He taught at UC Santa Barbara after receiving his doctorate from UC Berkeley. At UCI, he directed the University Orchestra and taught music theory, composition and chamber music from 1966 until his retirement in 1994. Odegard lived in University Hills and is survived by his three children.