Holocaust Survivor to Be Honored with Tolley Medal

warrenHolocaust survivor Naomi Warren of Houston will be honored with the William Pearson Tolley Medal for Distinguished Leadership in Life Long Learning at a private gathering on April 7 at Syracuse University. Naomi Warren is the inspiration for the Syracuse University School of Education’s Spector/Warren Fellowship for Future Educators. Her daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Andrew Spector, of Houston,  are graduates of SU, and Helen serves on the School of Education’s Board of Visitors.

“Naomi Warren is an inspiration to our students,” says Douglas Biklen, dean of the School of Education. “She has taught generations of students lessons about the Holocaust and of survival, resistance and how to be allies of justice. Her impact on the education of Syracuse University students who are preparing to be teachers, counselors and researchers is nearly indescribable. Each winter, a group of our students visits with her in Houston, Texas, and comes back deeply touched by her words and, most of all, by her great warmth and humor. She embodies the meaning of lifelong learning.”

Warren (nee Kaplan) was born in eastern Poland to a large, educated family. Though her plans to attend university in England were made impossible by Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, she did enroll at the university near her hometown. At the beginning of 1940, she married Alexander Rosenbaum, a young physician she met on the train to school.

In January 1942, Naomi and Alexander were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where they were separated upon arrival. Alexander was sent to the men’s camp, where he died several months later. Naomi was selected for labor detail, and endured almost three years of starvation and work at the camp. In 1945, she was sent to Ravensbruck and then Bergen-Belsen, where the British liberated her in April 1945.

With the assistance of her uncle and her sister, who had settled in the United States before the war, Naomi relocated to Houston in 1946. In 1949, she married Martin Warren, and they had three children. The Warrens worked together in the import business they established until his death in 1960.

Warren assumed leadership of the company and saw it through decades of growth. She has always been active in the community, and currently serves on the boards of the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Jewish Federation and the Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League. She has received numerous honors and awards for her professional achievements, community service and philanthropic work.

In honor of Warren’s 80th birthday, her family established the Spector/Warren Fellowship for Future Educators with the Syracuse University School of Education in partnership with the Holocaust Museum Houston.

The fellowship is designed to help future teachers bring the lessons of the Holocaust into the classroom. Since 2006, more than 150 students have participated in this unique experience. With Warren and her family serving as hosts, approximately 20 students each year take part in an intensive six-day institute at the Holocaust Museum Houston in early January. Through a series of lectures and discussions, nationally recognized Holocaust scholars, university faculty and Holocaust survivors provide the historical and pedagogical context for understanding the Holocaust and its implications for contemporary society.

The Tolley Medal
Syracuse University established the Tolley Medal in 1966 to recognize outstanding contributions by national and international leaders in what was then known as adult education. In naming the award for former Chancellor William Pearson Tolley, SU’s Board of Trustees paid tribute to a man whose own interest was expressed in consistent, personal support of Syracuse’s program and of adult education activities worldwide.


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