“I’ve seen the best and the worst of mankind,” Richard Wiener said, “and I have it within me to convey to others the worth of living the good life instead of a selfish life.”
Growing up a Jewish boy in Wittenberg, Germany, at the onset of World War II, Richard truly identifies with the oppressed and downtrodden in society. After years of suffering through intensifying Nazi-regulated racial laws against Jews and surviving Kristallnacht, Richard’s immediate family escaped Germany and eventually journeyed to the United States.
Richard furthered his sensitivity for humanity through experience serving in the U.S. Army and crisscrossing the nation as a hitchhiker working hard-labor jobs. When he learned about Berea College by chance, nearly 20 years ago, he knew he had discovered a special place that represented his life mission.
“The diversity aspect is very important to me, given my background,” he said. “The fact that everyone is welcome at Berea, regardless of their background, is a major thing for me.”
“I especially am compelled by Berea’s motto—God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth,” he added. “At first, I saw the cross and knew it was a Christian college and wondered where I would fit in; but then I saw those words and it totally changed my perception. I want to cross boundaries, and that’s the very reason I give.”
Now 90 years old, Richard has dedicated his life to pursuing reconciliation and forgiveness—seeking to model understanding among all people. He also mentors men from all over the world through the international training and educational organization, The Mankind Project.
“I’m drawn to people who need help and are worth helping because they are trying to help themselves,” Richard said.
In addition to his 17 years of support, Richard is funding The Richard Wiener Garden of Peace project on Berea’s campus, as part of the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building. Incorporated into the space will be one of Richard’s favorite quotes: “To understand all is to forgive all.” The Garden of Peace will stand as a beautiful reminder that everyone has a story, a fear, and something inside of them driving them, Richard said.
“I feel the Garden of Peace will fit into the general tenor of Berea,” he explained, “and will stand as another manifestation of what Berea is about.”