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Jay M. Ipson, Holocaust survivor and executive director and founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, has been named the Commencement speaker for the School of Continuing Studies Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 8, 2010, at 9:00 a.m.

Born in Lithuania in 1935, Ipson was forced into a concentration camp with his family at age six. After escaping with his parents in 1943, he endured bleak post-war conditions until the family immigrated to Richmond when he was twelve. His father, who had been an attorney in Lithuania, found work cleaning bathrooms in an Esso gas station downtown. His mother worked as a seamstress in the Thalhimer’s department store

Ipson graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and attended the University of Richmond. He joined the United States Army Reserve in 1954, serving as an instructor in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant after eight years of service. A skilled aviator, Ipson ascended to the rank of full colonel in the Virginia Defense Force Aviation Brigade, serving as its commander from 1988 to 1992.

As owner of American Auto Parts in Hopewell, Ipson was active in the Anti-Defamation League and frequently spent his mornings giving talks at local schools about the Holocaust. A friend suggested that he establish a museum to let people learn more from him. After discussion with leaders at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and with backing from financial and legislative leaders, the Virginia Holocaust Museum was born.

“It is very gratifying when you see the effect that the museum has on people,” Ipson has said. “And when they leave here, many have told me their whole life has been changed. They look at their neighbors as friends and understand more about the difference between people.”

Ipson and his wife, Eleanor, have been married since 1959. They have three children and four grandchildren.