Local philanthropists make $20M gift for genocide center

The foundation created by local philanthropists Cynthia Simon Skjodt and Paul Skjodt has gifted $20 million to create an endowment for an international center focused on averting genocide.

Due to the donation, the Washington, D.C.-based United States Holocaust Museum announced Thursday that its Center for the Prevention of Genocide would be renamed The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

The donation was made through the Samerian Foundation, which the couple founded in 2003.

The endowment gift is expected to help the center develop new approaches to alerting the international community to the potential for genocidal events. The approaches would include creating an early warning system that identifies conditions that lead to genocide and gets the information to world leaders, academics and the public before atrocities begin.

“Our motivation in making this gift is to inspire other people to become involved in preventing genocide,” said Cindy Simon Skjodt in a prepared release . “My parents were teenagers during the Holocaust, and while they were born in the United States, they were deeply impacted by what was happening in Europe.

“The questions of how and why—how human beings could commit such crimes and why so many others were complacent—lingered throughout their lives.”

Cindy Simon Skjodt is the daughter of late Indiana Pacers co-owner and shopping mall magnate Melvin Simon. She and her husband gave $40 million in 2013 toward the renovation of Indiana University's Assembly Hall. Last year, they donated $5 million to support the Indianapolis Zoo's new orangutan center.

Skjodt's other recent gifts include $2 million to the Herron School of Art and Design’s Art Therapy Program and $1.5 million to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

IBJ named Skjodt among the city’s Women of Influence in 2013.

The Simon-Skjodt gift is part of the Holocaust Museum’s current $540 million campaign, led by honorary chair Elie Wiesel.
 

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