Fourth-year wins Elie Wiesel Prize in EthicsBy Josh Schonwald
Fourth-year Peter Erickson has been named a winner of the prestigious Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics.
Erickson’s essay, “The Burden of Lightness,” earned him second place in the contest, which the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity established in 1989 to challenge college students to analyze urgent ethical issues confronting them in today’s world.
Erickson’s essay was chosen out of nearly 600 essays submitted by some of the country’s top students studying in the field of ethics.
Erickson, who will receive his award this winter from Wiesel at a reception in New York, focused his essay on the relationship between ethics and literature, drawing from the works of Italo Calvino and William Shakespeare, and Roberto Benigni’s film Life is Beautiful.
Erickson, a major in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, who transferred from a two-year liberal arts college in California, crafted an early form of his prize-winning essay for his class Twentieth Century Philosophical Thought, taught by Arnold Davidson, Professor in Philosophy and the College.
He also credits David Wellbery, the LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor in Germanic Studies and the College, with having provided help and encouragement in shaping his essay.
Active in Chicago’s affiliate of the not-for-profit organization Habitat for Humanity, Erickson hopes to spend a post-graduation year teaching or participating in Americorps before pursuing graduate studies.
Currently, Erickson is completing his senior thesis on Frank Kafka’s short story “Before the Law” and its afterlife in literary criticism.
Soon after he won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel, joined by his wife, Marion, established the New York-based Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
The foundation’s mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust and its victims, is to advance the cause of human rights by creating forums for the discussion and resolution of urgent ethical issues.