By Thomas Kyle-Milward
Marketing & Communication
TACOMA, WASH. (May 2, 2018) — The Mayer family has a long, storied history of philanthropic endeavors with Pacific Lutheran University. Natalie Mayer wanted to build on that good work by endowing a lecture series that addressed what she saw as a growing need — the spike in racist and anti-Semitic acts across the United States.
The inaugural Natalie Mayer Holocaust and Genocide Studies Lecture, taking place on May 2, hosts language scholar and international expert Dr. Lid King, who will discuss how hate speech has flourished on the internet and detail how we must work to build a counter narrative.
“My (hope) is to have scholars and artists come to PLU, spend time with students in their classrooms and to have some sort of community event,” Mayer said. “I would like the community to know what we’re doing at Pacific Lutheran University. This is a way to connect the past genocides to the bigotry and hatred of today’s world, to bridge the past with the present.”
First, a little backstory. The late Kurt Mayer, Natalie’s father, escaped Nazi Germany as a child in 1940 on one of the last ships to transport Jewish refugees to America.
In his twenties, he found his way to Tacoma, made his wealth being a developer of affordable housing and became a mainstay in the community, eventually connecting with PLU by way of an invitation to speak to Chris Browning’s class about the Holocaust. Despite some initial skepticism, Kurt Mayer audited the class — thus kindling a relationship that culminated in a decade of service as a Board of Regents member, the blossoming of the university’s Holocaust studies program and the establishment of the endowed Kurt Mayer Chair in Holocaust Studies.
The Mayers, along with the Powell and Heller families and many others were the foundational members in promoting Holocaust Studies at PLU. Over the past ten years these three families have worked to never forget the past. Natalie Mayer wanted to expand on that message and keep the conversation going throughout the year — an interactive experience for students and community members that focused more on present-day issues around the world.
She’s carrying on her family’s legacy. But it’s more than that. She’s changing that legacy to keep up with a changing world.
“None of us can do anything about changing the past. We can be hopeful for a better world in the future if we all do our part.”