Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg, Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian was born on August 4, 1912.
Before outfoxing the Nazis, risking his life, and saving 100,000 Jews from the hell of World War II death camps. Before living on the run and being the target of assassins.
Before disappearing into a Russian gulag and being forever silenced.
Before the statues, the streets bearing his name, and the global tributes exalting his bravery and sacrifice. Before becoming the only person other than Winston Churchill to be made an honorary U.S. citizen.
Before all this, Raoul Wallenberg was a University of Michigan student.
Days removed from an ocean liner that carried him from his native Sweden, he walked onto the Ann Arbor campus in 1931 much like any freshman: eager to fit in and succeed.
As a student, he would come to express his creativity as an artist and his emotions as a man. He would learn to solve problems, both on paper and in the real world. He was flexible and fearless, eager to encounter new people and places.
If one indeed believes leaders are not born, they are made, then Michigan helped make Wallenberg. And his days in Ann Arbor would shape a brand of heroism that distinguished Raoul Wallenberg, Class of 1935, as one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary humanitarians.
For the rest of the story, see Kim Clarke, “Wallenberg at Michigan“, University of Michigan Heritage Project.
Sheryl James, “A WWII hero’s enduring legacy“, Michigan Today, July 26, 2012.