The Victor and Shirley Flax Kindness Award will be unveiled on Saturday, Nov. 1, during a luncheon in the Dwight Lounge on the Hamilton College campus. It is intended to recognize the many yet simple acts of kindness by Victor and Shirley Flax and to foster similar relationships between Hamilton students and members of the local community.
Stuart Muszynski, founder and president of Project Love Remember the Children Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the former students who will return to Utica this weekend to unveil the award. A 1976 Hamilton graduate, he will be joined by classmate Ernest Fung and Robert Budoff, a 1975 graduate, all of whom were regular visitors to the Flax household in Utica during their undergraduate years at Hamilton.
Occasionally, the hospitality extended to the Hamilton students went beyond the usual and sometimes involved the Flaxes providing counseling, parenting and even financing. For example, Fung, who came to Hamilton from Hong Kong, was provided financial support to pursue graduate study and to purchase an automobile.
"This award seeks to recognize and foster connections with students away from home and the people of the local community," Muszynski said. "Vic and Shirley have given us an extraordinary example of how simple acts of kindness can make an enormous difference in people's lives.
"There is a real need to recognize this type of selflessness in our society," Muszynski added. "I am thrilled that Hamilton is doing this, not just for Shirley and Vic, but for the students as well, who will be future leaders in our country."
According to Muszynski, the example of the Flaxes has been part of the inspiration for Project Love, an organization he and his wife founded in 1994 to foster skills that strengthen caring, kindness and mutual respect among high school-age children in the Cleveland area. "The kindness that Shirley and Vic showed me and many others lives on in Project Love and in this award," Muszynski said.
Victor Flax is executive director and past president of Temple Beth El in Utica, where he has been a member for over 50 years. An auto parts businessman before his retirement, Mr. Flax never graduated from college, but for more than a quarter of a century he and his wife quietly invited students into their home for a meal and friendship. Most recently, the Flaxes joined with another community leader in sponsoring a Bosnian family's immigration to the Utica area.
Members of the community interested in supporting the Victor and Shirley Flax Kindness Award can make contributions by contacting the Hamilton College Office of Communications and Development at 859-4412. Administration of the award will be coordinated by the Hamilton Action Volunteer Outreach Coalition.