Standing Ovations and Lasting Impressions: Dr. Edith Eger’s Impact at CWU

Anyone who can bring a packed house to its feet twice in one performance is clearly powerful. When that person is 85 years-old, maybe five feet tall and a Holocaust survivor, they bring inspiration to the room and to the world in a way that no one else can. Dr. Edith Eva Eger, who spoke last night in the CWU Jerilyn S. MycIntyre Music Building Concert Hall, is, without question, a rock star.

It would seem that for someone who survived all that Dr. Eger has–including near death in Auschwitz, the loss of her parents and severe depression after liberation–carrying on each day would be a near impossibility. What is amazing about Dr. Eger is that she does so much more than carry on; she thrives. Through her work as a psychiatrist she has helped battered women and soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder conquer their struggles. While the rest of the audience and I were certainly in awe of Dr. Eger, she exudes an uncommon warmth and kindness that left me feeling as if there was truly nowhere she would rather have been than speaking with us.

I have never felt more humbled than when I met Dr. Eger yesterday during her meet and greet in the Mary Grupe Center. She agreed enthusiastically to a photo-op with my boss Mindy Holliday and I, after running to the restroom to touch up her lipstick. While I was wholly intimidated to meet someone so extraordinary, I felt more at ease once Dr. Eger told me, “I would love to know how you do your eye makeup.” We chatted about her career as a ballerina and gymnast before she was taken to Auschwitz and I nearly felt I was talking to my own grandmother, so talented is Dr. Eger at making people feel at home.

Laughter, tears and resonating applause accompanied Dr. Eger throughout her speech, up through her finale of a high kick and blown kiss. Whether you were there to take it in or not, remember Dr. Eger’s words.

“I’m a survivor. I don’t ask, ‘why me?’ I ask ‘what now?’” As a reminder of the durability of the human spirit, Dr. Eger, we salute you.

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