LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Spielberg clan honored one of its own — not filmmaker Steven or one of his three sisters, but family patriarch Arnold Meyer Spielberg.
The family gathered late last month for the conferral of the first Inspiration Award by the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute on the 95-year-old senior Spielberg, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.
Steven Spielberg established the institute after the success of his film “Schindler’s List” and has nurtured it since.
Among high-tech and computer professionals, Arnold Spielberg’s name is almost as well known as his son’s is in Hollywood, and he put these skills to work to set the institute off on the right track.
The USC institute, with 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses from 56 countries and in 32 languages, is admired mainly for its historical and educational values. However, collecting, classifying, and providing school and public access to the massive material is also an impressive technological feat.
After serving as communications chief with a Burma-based bomber squadron during World War II, Arnold Spielberg became an electrical engineer and a vital figure in the incipient computer revolution.
He helped design and build the first business computer, patented the first electronic library system, designed the first electronic cash register, and took a leading role in developing the massive digital Shoah Institute archives holding more than 105,000 hours of visual history.
Early on he promoted the concept that technology, frequently accused of diminishing man’s humanity, can instead build connections among individuals and societies.
In recognition of the first award recipient, future honorees will receive the freshly renamed Arnold Spielberg Inspiration Award.