Robert Edsel will visit West Virginia University to discuss his book, “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” as part of the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas on March 27. His talk begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Creative Arts Center. It is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

While living in Florence, Italy, Edsel developed a great passion for art and architecture. He became curious as to how so many of the monuments and great works of art survived theft and devastation during World War II. What began as a simple question evolved into an impassioned journey to tell the story of the Monuments Men, the unsung heroes who saved the world’s greatest art and cultural treasures for the benefit of civilization.

Edsel has dedicated years to painstaking and far-reaching research about the Monuments Men. He has written three non-fiction books, “Rescuing Da Vinci,” “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” and “Saving Italy: the Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” which detail the history of the Monuments Men and their struggles to protect and save some of the world’s most iconic masterpieces, including Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and Michelangelo’s “David.”

Along with this work, he founded the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (i.e. the Monuments Men) during World War II. The foundation was one of 10 recipients of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. This is the highest honor given by the United States for excellence in the humanities field and honors individuals and groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

A man passionate about his community and profession, Edsel has served on a great number of professional, educational and cultural boards and volunteers his time to numerous civic organizations locally, nationally and internationally. His good work has not gone unnoticed. In April 2008, Edsel received the President’s Call to Service Award. This award is presented to individuals by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in recognition and appreciation of their commitment to strengthening the nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.

In November 2008, Edsel was presented with the Hope for Humanity award from the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. He was honored for his dedication to promoting tolerance, education and understanding in an effort to reduce prejudice. In March 2011, Edsel was presented with the Texas Medal of Arts, which is awarded to Texas leaders and luminaries in the arts and entertainment industry for creative excellence and exemplary talents. And in April 2011, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from St. Mark’s School of Texas, which recognizes achievement of exceptional nature in any field, vocational or voluntary, covering an entire career.

Edsel was formerly a nationally ranked tennis player. In 1981, he began his business career in oil and gas exploration. His company, Gemini Exploration, pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology throughout the early 1990s. Gemini Exploration grew from a company with eight employees to almost 100. By 1995, Gemini had become the second most active driller of horizontal wells in the United States. In 1995, Robert Edsel sold the company’s assets to Union Pacific Resources Company. The following year he moved to Europe with his family.

Festival of Ideas is an annual speaker series that hosts high-profile intellectuals and public figures—along with WVU’s own academic superstars—in a series of lectures that engage the university community in important issues of the day. It’s organized by the Office of University Events.

For more information, visit and follow the conversation on Twitter at #wvuideas.



CONTACT: Liz Dickinson, Office of University Events

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