Dr. Hill and students

Novogratz to receive Sandor Teszler Award

Jacqueline Novogratz / Photo by ©Joyce Ravid

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, author to speak at March 2 convocation

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of the philanthropic organization Acumen Fund, will receive the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind and an honorary degree from Wofford College on Tuesday, March 2, during a special convocation at the college.

Novogratz will speak at the 11 a.m. convocation honoring her, to be held in Leonard Auditorium in Wofford’s Main Building. The event will be free and open to the public.

The Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind represents the highest ideals that the Wofford community espouses, and it carries with it an honorary degree, a citation and a $10,000 cash award.

Novogratz is the author of the bestselling memoir “The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World,” published in 2009.

Novogratz is responsible for the vision behind Acumen Fund’s unique approach to using philanthropic capital to invest in scalable businesses that serve the poor with life-changing goods and services. She has led the Acumen Fund team since its launch in 2001, and under her leadership Acumen Fund has invested $40 million in more than 35 companies serving 25 million low-income customers in the developing world. Prior to Acumen Fund, Novogratz founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership program at the Rockefeller Foundation. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank and she founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda.

She serves on the board of the Aspen Institute as well as the advisory councils of Stanford Graduate School of Business and MIT's Legatum Center. She is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow, a Synergos Institute Senior Fellow and has received a number of honors, including Ernst & Young’s 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 2009 CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award and AWNY’s 2009 Changing the Game Award.

Novogratz is a frequent speaker at international conferences, including the World Economic Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative and TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). She has an MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics/international relations from the University of Virginia.

Previous recipients of the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind are Vernon Baker, the only living black recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor during World War II; Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist, physician and founding director of the international charity organization Partners In Health; and Children’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman.

Sandor Teszler was born in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, where he was ostracized from childhood not so much because he was a Jew, but because he was afflicted with club feet that required many painful operations. He is said to have loved music, especially opera, from an early age. Later in life, he befriended his fellow exile, composer Bela Bartok.

During World War II, a successful businessman in textiles, Teszler and his family – his wife and two sons – were taken to a death house on the Danube, where victims were systematically beaten to death. They were prepared to die, prepared to take a poison capsule that would allow them to escape further torture, but they were saved when one of their tormentors inexplicably advised them not to take the pills, saying “Help is on the way.” Shortly thereafter, they were rescued by an official from the Swiss embassy.

Coming to the Carolinas, Teszler again joined the textile industry, and was one of the first to desegregate his mills.

In the last decade of his life, Teszler graced the Wofford campus, “attending so many classes that the faculty, acknowledging a wisdom and experience greater than their own, honored themselves by making him a professor,” Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap wrote in a tribute to Teszler that appeared in the Charlotte Observer in August 2000.

To Wofford students, Teszler was known simply as “Opi,” Hungarian for grandfather. The college library bears his name.

“With the Sandor Teszler Award, we seek to commemorate the life and career of Sandor Teszler, who was for many years associated with Wofford and who in his own life and career embodied the ideals of the award being made in his name,” Dunlap says. “We also seek to celebrate the contributions of a figure of both national and international renown. It is our intention to assure that everyone in the Wofford College community is fully aware of the recipient’s achievement. The faculty will process in full academic regalia, and the honoree will address the college as the main speaker for this occasion.”

Watch Wofford’s President Benjamin B. Dunlap as he talks about the “Passionate Life” of the late Sandor Teszler at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference in 2007.

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