Professor Who Lost His Wife In Killings to Lead Peace Center

By Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 29, 2008

A professor whose wife was killed in the April 16, 2007, massacre at Virginia Tech will head a new peace center planned for the same classrooms where most of the students and faculty members died.

Jerzy Nowak, the husband of French instructor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, will be founding director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, scheduled to open next spring in the now-shuttered wing of Norris Hall where gunman Seung Hui Cho killed 30 of his 32 victims. This fall, Virginia Tech will begin a $1 million renovation of the classrooms, long ago scrubbed and repainted to erase any physical traces of the violence.

Nowak, a native of Poland and head of the university's horticulture department, said the center will have a broad mission, promoting "trans-disciplinary research to enact leadership for social change."

"With complex issues like violence and violence prevention, one needs to have a trans-disciplinary approach," Nowak said.

He said the center will work on national and international problems and draw students and instructors from a variety of backgrounds. Food production, shelter, education, energy and health care will all be topics of study in the interest of improving "human security," Nowak said.

A summit on campus security in 2009 or 2010 will be one of its first projects, he said. The center will continue to refine its goals and objectives during its "formative years," said Karen Roberto, a university official who has worked with Nowak to plan the center. She said its basic mission will be to create educational and research opportunities that "promote peace, prevent violence and enhance global security."

Eventually, Nowak said, the center wants to create 32 endowments, one for each shooting victim, that would fund scholarships, research and student-led projects at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Nowak said the center would not necessarily remain at Norris Hall, which is shared with engineering faculty and students.

"I see this as an opportunity to establish the center and give it a symbolic start, at least as a beginning," he said. "My actual hope is that we'll raise enough to expand and operate somewhere else on campus."

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