Champaign, Urbana recognize humanitarian award recipients

By Natalie Carino

The cities of Champaign and Urbana honored recipients of the Fourth Annual 2006 Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Awards last night at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S. Neil St., in Champaign.

“The purpose of the award is to honor individuals who have contributed significantly to humanitarian work,” said Joan Walls, assistant to the City Manager for Community Relations.

Awards are given in three categories: hospitality, research and education, and humanitarian relief.

At this year’s ceremony, three individuals and two organizations were honored. These individuals were Professor Emeritus Mel Wagner and the late Caroline Cramer Wagner, Professor Kimiko Gunji and Professor Emeritus Earl D. Kellogg.

The organizations that were recognized were the Champaign Rotary Club and Lincoln Trail Libraries System.

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    Professor Kimiko Gunji received an award in the research and education category. Gunji is the director of the University’s Japan House, allowing her educational activities to reach the University and the community as well.

    “I have been teaching for over 30 years and through that I am trying to get students to appreciate other cultures and at the same time find an appreciation for their own,” said Gunji.

    Gunji has been educating the community in the study of Japanese arts since 1973 and was nominated for her outreach, public service and instruction. Gunji said she wants people to take a feeling of peace from the Japan House to make the world a more tranquil place.

    Kellogg was honored in the Humanitarian Relief category. Kellogg has worked to protect the environment, while increasing rural employment and agricultural productivity.

    He has also managed international projects in various areas such as forestry and natural resource management.

    Currently, he is a chair on the advisory board for the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. Kellogg said that is important to promote peace and justice in other areas of the world because America’s well-being is influenced by other countries.

    “Kellogg has dedicated his life to international development and international relief,” said nominator Hans Hock.

    Professor Emeritus Wagner and the late Caroline Cramer Wagner received an award in the hospitality category for their work in Thailand and India. While living abroad for a total of eleven years, the Wagners encouraged scholars in those countries to complete doctoral degrees. Only a small number of scholars had Ph.D.s.

    “What I’m most proud of in my five years of being in Thailand is that I sent 22 people abroad to get Ph.D.s,” said Mel Wagner.

    Caroline Cramer Wagner was also an active member in the community. She was a board member for the Cosmopolitan Club and a member of the International Hospitality Club. She also worked for the University YWCA. There, Caroline welcomed many foreigners to the community, even becoming a host family to some.

    At the age of three, Caroline contracted polio, leaving her on crutches for the rest of her life. Mel Wagner said, however, that she did not let that slow her down. Caroline passed away on Feb. 17 from cancer.

    “I am so pleased for her that we received the award,” Mel said. “She was a life-long learner . She was always curious.”