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UWRF premieres human rights lecture

October 15, 2009

On Oct. 21, the Edward N. Peterson Lecture series will take place in the Abbott Concert Hall in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building (KFA).

Currently in its third year, the lecture will be focused on “Human Rights: A Revisionist History from the French Revolution to the Present.”

The featured speaker will be Eric D. Weitz, a professor of history at the University of Minnesota.

Human rights, Weitz said, has historically been a field for lawyers, legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, non-governmental organizations and activists. Weitz will present a critical history of human rights that is international in scope and that “dismantles the teleology of empires to nation-states and intertwines crimes and rights into a common narrative,” Weitz said in the press release.

Edward N. Peterson was a professor at UW-River Falls for 51 years, until his death in March 2005.

Betty Bergland, a professor of history at UWRF, has taken part in coordination of the series since it began.

“[Peterson] had been involved in the planning for the lecture series with the department,” Bergland said. “We had just agreed to set up this lecture… and I had always wanted it to be named after him.”

Bergland said she, among other professors, had wanted the series to be in his name even before his death.

“I spoke with the family and the family agreed as recognition of his work here at the University,” to name the series after him, Bergland said.

The series is to focus on topics that were part of Peterson’s life and lectures.

“The idea was to honor Peterson with a lecture series, [and] to also help stimulate the intellectual light of the campus,” Bergland said.

The series is sponsored by the Edward N. Peterson Lecture Series Endowment; created by the History department from accrued funds throughout the years, along with alumni and faculty gifts, Bergland said.

Past lecture series have included “Joseph McCarthy and His Times: Fifty Years Later” led by Richard Friend, a Professor of History at the University of Illinois Chicago in 2008, and “When ‘Never Again’ is
a Cliché: The Complicated Role of Rescuers in Genocide” led byStephen Feinstein in 2007.

Each year, there have been members of the community that have attended the series, along with members of the Twin Cities, Bergland said.

A mural of Peterson, composed of six stances portraying the professor, can be found in the west hallway of the Wyman Education Building (WEB). The mural was created by Garrett Bergemann, a senior fine arts major from Bloomington, Minn., in November 2006.

Peterson taught at UWRF from 1954 until March 18, 2005, and served as chair of the social science department from 1963 to 1991.

Refreshments will be served at 3:30 p.m. in the KFA Lobby, and the lecture and discussion will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Abbott Concert Hall of KFA, and it is free and open to the public.