Carolina Wishner found herself at the heart of two of the world’s most catastrophic events--the explosion at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986 and the terrorists’ attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Wishner, 47, now a master’s degree student at the University of Toledo, was enrolled at the University of Panama in 1986 when she was offered a scholarship to attend medical school in the old Soviet Union. While studying at a Ukrainian hospital where many of the victims with radiation poisoning were sent, she saw first hand the effects of a major disaster.
According to information provided by the University of Toledo, Wishner put this experience to use when she moved back to Panama to work as a physician for the National Police in Panama City. There she helped establish a 911 system to deliver emergency medical care to all citizens.
She continued to pursue her career in medicine and volunteered for various medical missions. Then, in 2001 she witnessed her second major disaster. She was visiting New York when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers killing more than 2,800. Wishner was within walking distance of the site and volunteered her services at Ground Zero.
Today, Wishner lives in Maumee with her husband and is pursuing a master’s degree in public health administration. She is the most recent recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Scholar Award given to a student who best exemplifies meritorious services to those unable to help themselves.
Robert Karp, a retired railroad worker and former Northwood resident, founded the scholarship in 1987 to honor Wallenberg‘s courage and commitment to social justice. In 25 years, the award has helped send more than 20 caring professionals into society. They include former Martin resident Amy Kaylor Walston, now a physician at a veterans’ hospital in Westwood, California. Walston specializes in geriatric psychiatry. She cares for older veterans who need psychiatric and medical help but have few social and financial resources. She was the Wallenberg recipient in 1992-93, chosen for her academic accomplishments and her volunteer work advocating for rape victims.
Such compassionate career goals and demonstrated volunteer work are typically found in the resumes of past recipients. These students have dedicated their young lives to help battered woman, migrant farm workers, the homeless and victims of housing discrimination. Typical career goals have included medicine, nursing and social work.
Wishner and past recipients will be honored August 22 when UT unveils a new exhibit at the Canaday Center. The exhibit will pay homage to Wallenberg on the 100th anniversary of his birth which occurs August 12. The 12-14 panel exhibit details Wallenberg’s heroic efforts during World War II, according to Dr. Thomas Barden, Dean of the Honors College and chair of the Wallenberg committee.
Wallenberg, a graduate of the University of Michigan, was a Swedish businessman and diplomat. He is credited with saving some 90,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. He risked his life many times interceding on behalf of the most vulnerable residents of Budapest. He did so without weapons and without political power. As a representative of a neutral country, he could not interfere with the Nazi-controlled Hungarian leadership. He saved lives by distributing false identification papers, special protection papers and through the force of his persuasive personality. He did most of his work under the nose of and in direct conflict with Adolf Eichman, who, according to author Harvey Rosenfeld in his book Raoul Wallenberg Angel of Rescue, “made mass murder into an efficient, mechanized process.“
Wallenberg often used the argument that when the Russians liberated Budapest Eichman and others would be prosecuted for war crimes for their treatment of the Jews. Ironically, it was Wallenberg who was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1945. Although his fate was unknown for decades, it is now believed he died in 1947 in a Russian prison, although no definitive proof exists.
President Ronald Reagan and Congress made Wallenberg an honorary citizen in 1981. He is one of only two men so honored. The other is Winston Churchill. Wallenberg is an inspiration for those who seek to dedicate their careers to enhancing the lives of the powerless. Robert Karp should be given credit for his vision. However, in 25 years the university has only succeeded in building an endowment of $45,500 and this year’s award was only $1,700.
Surely, we all can do better.
John Szozda served as chair of the Wallenberg Scholar Award Committee from 1991-1997. To donate send a check to The University of Toledo Foundation, Wallenberg Scholar Award, P.O. Box 586, Toledo, OH 43697-0586. Comment at email@example.com