Gandhi Center award recognizes Zehr, Huber


by Janet Smith

2013 Community Service Award
JMU President Jonathan Alger (left) presents the Community Service Award from the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence to Harold Huber, who accepted the award on behalf of his late wife, Dr. Vida Huber.

Two individuals with ties to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, whose work has improved the lives of people in the Harrisonburg community and beyond, were honored with the inaugural Community Service Award from the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence.

The individual contributions of Dr. Howard Zehr and the late Dr. Vida Huber were celebrated at a reception on the JMU campus Oct. 2, the 144th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth and the International Day of Non-Violence. JMU President Jonathan Alger presented the awards to Zehr and to Harold Huber, Dr. Huber’s husband.

The award honors the body of work both Zehr and Huber contributed to the fields of restorative justice and health care, respectively. Zehr, known as “the grandfather of restorative justice,” is the Distinguished Professor of Restorative Justice at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice.

“Howard has a worldwide influence on restorative justice,” said EMU President Loren Swartzendruber at the awards reception. His contributions to the field date to the late 1970s, when he was a practitioner and theorist in the foundational stage of the restorative justice movement. Zehr has led hundreds of events internationally that focus on restorative justice, victim-offender conferencing, judicial reform and other criminal justice issues.

He is a past member of the Victims Advisory Groups of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and has taught courses and workshops in restorative justice to more than 1,000 people, many of whom lead their own restorative justice-focused organizations. Representatives of the Council for Restorative Justice at Georgia State University, Youth Justice Initiative in Iowa and Mediation Northern Ireland are among the leaders Zehr has taught.

Zehr is also a talented photographer, Swartzendruber said, noting that his images “help us to see others as real people.” A keen sense of humor, vital faith and humility are other strengths Zehr possesses. “You can interact with him for a long time without hearing about his professional accomplishments,” Swartzendruber said.

Huber was an associate dean in JMU’s College of Integrated Science and Technology at the time of her death in November 2005. She spearheaded the formation of JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, whose purpose is to serve people with a variety of needs. Huber also held the distinction of serving as head of the nursing departments at JMU and EMU.

In 2002, Huber received the James Madison University Citizenship Award, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit of Madison’s commitment to the public good. Dr. Jerry Benson, JMU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, who called Huber “a dear friend and colleague,” described her as “a person with vision and a passion for service.”

Recalling her remarks upon receiving the citizenship award, Benson quoted his friend: “Service is at the heart of my philosophy of life, and I believe that it is through service to others that we ourselves become more whole.”

Her community leadership included serving as president of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic Board and as an active member of the Valley AIDS Network, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Commission, Northwest Virginia Council of AIDS Service Organizations, Healthy Community Council and Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center Board.

The Gandhi Center membership expects to present the Community Service Award every two years.

“It is important for people to know their efforts are recognized,” said Gary Race, director of the Gandhi Center. “It is important for what they do.

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Oct. 4, 2013

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Published: Friday, October 4, 2013

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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