Zerivitz receives highest academic recognition a university can confer


Gathered in the FIU Robing Room Prior to Ceremony, (l-r), FIU Senior Vice President Howard Lipman; FIU Vice Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Kenneth G. Furton; Founding FIU Professor Emeritus, College of Education Dr. Stephen Fain; FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg; Dr. Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Elliott Zerivitz, Michael Kerstein, Marni Kerstein Odom, Joy and Don Zerivitz.

Not only was Marcia Jo Zerivitz awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters-Honoris Causa, as was noted in the May 20 issue, but Heritage recently discovered that this award was an extremely rare honor. The following is more on the honorary degree Zerivitz received, as well as pictures with family and friends from the Central Florida area.

Marcia Jo Zerivitz, founding executive director of Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters-Honoris Causa from Florida International University at their May 11, 2016 Commencement ceremony. In addition to Zerivitz, there were 10 graduation ceremonies for FIU, with 5,000 people present. United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice was the commencement speaker, who followed Zerivitz's speech.

Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton said, "This is the highest academic recognition that we as a university can confer to an individual for their contributions to a variety of fields and causes. We are proud to honor Marcia Jo Zerivitz for her many and long-standing commitments to our community."

In his nomination letter, Dr. Stephen Fain, founding FIU professor emeritus, College of Education, said, "Marcia Jo Zerivitz is recognized as a significant figure in American Jewish history and in the museum world. For the vision and impact she has had on Floridians of all backgrounds and for her skill as a researcher and as a communicator, I submit her name..."

Zerivitz was escorted to the Hooding Ceremony by Founding Dean of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs John Stack and Dr. Fain. FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg read the citation as Furton and Board of Trustees vice-chair Jorge Arrizurieta presented the Ph.D. Hood.

Following Zerivitz's remarks, President Rosenberg said, "Dr. Zerivitz is the personification of vision, of persistence, and of action of getting things done. I am sure her family and friends asked, 'Why are you doing this,' and now we have something that captures the entire experience."

How did Zerivitz feel that day? "I felt like royalty, because FIU treated my family and me with such high respect. When FIU President Mark Rosenberg called me a few months ago to tell me that I would receive this honorary degree, he said it was a rare honor that FIU confers." 

Zerivitz came to the MOSAIC project with decades of experience as a community leader and fundraiser.

Driven by her passion to ensure continuity for the Florida Jewish community and the MOSAIC board's direction to find a permanent home for the collection, Marcia Jo discovered the abandoned Beth Jacob Synagogue on South Beach. She recruited volunteers, created a strategic plan and institutional structure and led the fundraising to adapt the National Register building to the Jewish Museum of Florida (JMOF) that opened in 1995.

Before her retirement in 2011, Zerivitz presented 70 exhibits and 500 educational programs. With her original and growing collections database and planning and management skills, JMOF was AAM-accredited twice.

She initiated legislations for Florida Jewish History Month (which was in May) and Jewish American Heritage Month and authored many historical publications and films. She continues to research, write, lecture, curate exhibits and consult in the field.

"I am profoundly honored" Zerivitiz stated. "It was made clear to me that this honor came from the faculty and this validated the hard work by all the volunteers from around the State who joined me in research before the days of Google and Wikipedia. Now I am regarded as a cultural anthropologist, sociologist and historian and the process I created to dig out the hidden history of Jews in Florida is respected and can be replicated by other groups of people. Some denied me credibility along the way because I did not have a Ph.D. so this honor makes me more "acceptable" for documenting the history of Floridian Jews, driven by my passion to help ensure Jewish continuity."

Delegation of Orlando Friends Attended Marcia Jo Zerivitz's Doctorate Ceremony on May 11, 2016. Left to right: Daughter Marni Kerstein Odom, Son Michael Kerstein, Sheryl Meitin, Elliott Zerivitz, Dr. Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Arlyne Monroe, Bruce Hausman, Lois Tannenbaum, Lisa Bierman Franklin. Orlando representatives absent from this photo are Emily and Marty Glickstein and Joy and Don Zerivitz.


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