For the first time at Minnesota State University, Mankato, the Kessel Peace Institute hosted the 2017 Peace Awards Nov. 14 in the Heritage Lounge on campus.
This was in honor of Ruth Miner-Kessel who created the Kessel Peace Institute in memory of her husband, Abbas Kessel, who was a political science professor at MNSU. Ruth Miner-Kessel passed away last year at the age of 96. She graduated from Knox College and then entered the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Dr. Carol Glasser, current director of the Kessel Pease Institute, gave the opening speech at the beginning of the event.
“Kessel Institute does a lot of activities during the year to promote peace and peace education and around the Mankato community,” said Dr. Glasser.
There is a student committee that meets monthly to help plan these events, which happen both on and off-campus. This year, they had over thirty student volunteers for the semester who helped with decorations, visited camps and schools to teach peace education and helped screen movies, one of which was “Two Weeks in May,” a documentary that was newly released by students, faculty and library staff about the anti-war activism at MNSU in 1972 to protest against the Vietnam War.
Dr. Barbara Carson, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Corrections, was the former director of the Kessel Peace Institute and was the keynote speaker at the event. She talked about her experiences meeting with Miner-Kessel and about the negative and positive things that have happened in Mankato and MNSU, including the hanging of the 38 Native Americans and how Julia Sears was appointed as the first female president of an institution of higher education in the country and MNSU in 1872.
Dr. Carson also talked about the different people who had helped promote peace in Mankato, including: Jean Schmidt and Sister Gladys Schmitz, who helped coordinate vigils at the post office in Mankato since 2001; the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, which provides educational diversity to children through the schools in Mankato; and Leah White, who has worked on equality and strength to aid against depression, especially in women.
Don Strasser, the first director of the Kessel Institute of Peace, gave a short speech thereafter. He also talked about his experiences with Abbas Kessel and Ruth Miner-Kessel.
“Abbas was the most informed and erudite genius who gave brilliant lectures,” he said. “He was really tough on his students and gave them more work that they could do just to see what their limitations were.”
He talked about how Miner-Kessel asked him to be the director of the institute. After which they formed a committee and tried to the funds to start the Institute and take on activities with the limited budget they had. They also tried to organize conferences where they would bring speakers in and encouraged students to attend.
Jackie Vaseline, another former director, also gave a short speech on her experiences from her time at the institute. The speeches thereafter were followed by the recognition ceremony, where Community Peace-Maker Awards were given out to: Adrienne Gruenes, Bukata Hayes, the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, the Hope Interfaith Center, Jean Schmidt, Jessica Flatequal, John W. Anderson, Laura Schultz, Leah White, Paul Prew, Sister Gladys Schmitz, Tammy Dahlvang, Timothy Berry, and Wilbur Neushwander-Frink.
There were also awards given to the Peace Essay Contest winners: Chelsea Calhoon, who’s essay was “Promoting Peace in the World”; Johann Hollar, who’s essay was “The Meaning of Peace”; and Myriam Coulibaly Yele Aurelie, who’s essay was “Peace Inside, Peace Outside.” Dominique Revis, John Shrestha, Kahmiyah Anderson and Nicholas Kuempel received honorable mentions in the Peace Essay Contest.
After the recognition ceremony, the documentary, “Two Weeks in May,” a film based from the book “Out of Chaos” by James F Nickerson, was shown. It was produced by Monika Antonelli and directed by Ryan Neil.
“We will be closer to attaining peace among each other,” said Nick Kuempel, who was one of the essay contest awardees, “when we can restore or our self-esteem and our self-love, which is the key to loving others.”