Wallenberg Fellow: Exploring the social impact of TB in Peru

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  • Contact Contact: Kevin Brown, (734) 764-4266, kevinbr@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan senior Lily Bonadonna has won the $25,000 Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship Award for 2014 to study the social causes of tuberculosis prevalence in Lima, Peru.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced Bonadonna's selection for the second annual award at the university's recent Honors Convocation.

Also announced during the program at Hill Auditorium was a gift from 1931 graduate Bert Askwith that will endow the fellowship. U-M Provost Martha Pollack announced the donation and said the gift from the 103-year-old Askwith, a generous donor to the university, would create the Mary Sue Coleman Endowed Fund for the Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship in honor of Coleman.

"I am very humbled by the way Bert is honoring me," Coleman said. "Much more important is how Bert is honoring the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg and his sacrifice. This gift is a wonderful way to support Michigan students and their commitment to public service."

The Wallenberg Fellowship is presented to a graduating senior of exceptional promise and accomplishment who is committed to service and the public good. Fellows carry out an independent project of learning or exploration anywhere in the world during the year after graduation.

"I am pleased to know that you will be spending your year in Peru to learn about the social determinants of tuberculosis in Lima, and to understand the lives of the communities in which this serious disease is so prevalent," Coleman wrote in a letter congratulating Bonadonna on her selection from among five finalists. "Yours is truly a bold integrative project of exploration, engagement and learning."

Bonadonna said her mentors have included family, professors and research mentors. She said Wallenberg's example encourages her to use tools she's gained to do good.

"I think it's important in life to find something you're really passionate about and figure out how to make that something good for other people, too," she said. "Form relationships, be compassionate and always be ready to learn—these are some of the biggest lessons he has taught me and the rest of the university. I do not think I will ever be able to live up to his legacy, but I am certainly going to try."

In a project summary submitted with her Wallenberg Fellowship application, Bonadonna wrote that while tuberculosis is preventable, it continues to spread in dense urban centers among low-socioeconomic-status individuals.

Roberto Frisancho, professor emeritus of anthropology, said her proposal "is quite exceptional in that it will address the disease of tuberculosis not only as a biological issue but as part of a bigger spectrum of human behavior and cultural practices that goes back to the cultural pattern of indigenous populations."

John Godfrey, U-M assistant dean for graduate education, said the Wallenberg proposals forwarded by schools and colleges to the fellowship committee were uniformly strong.

"It was inspirational to see the careful planning, creativity and engagement of each with the purpose of the Wallenberg Fellowship, and the commitment they shared to make a difference in the world," he said.

Wallenberg earned a U-M degree in architecture in 1935. As a Swedish diplomat, he is credited with saving 100,000 lives during the Holocaust. The fellowship in his name is presented to a graduating senior who demonstrates exceptional promise, character, accomplishment and capacity for public service.

"Raoul Wallenberg is recognized as one of our greatest heroes," Coleman said. "His dauntless resolve and courage in rescuing tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during World War II showed that one person can make a difference."

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