Annual Gala Dinner Honors J. Joe Adorjan and the Hungarian-Missouri Educational Partnership

Washington, DC – On September 29, 2015, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) hosted its eleventh annual Gala Dinner at the House of Sweden.  His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary, was Honorary Chairman of the event.  This year’s honoree was J. Joe Adorjan, Honorary Consul General of Missouri and founder of the Hungarian-Missouri Educational Partnership (HMEP).

Coalition Vice President Andrea Lauer Rice welcomed the distinguished guests, including this year’s honoree Mr. Adorjan, his wife Dianna, their 3 children and extended family; Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, Gala Co-Chair, and Mrs. Carol Walker; Mr. Michael F. Neidorff, Gala Co-Chair, and Mrs. Noemi Neidorff; Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi, Hungary’s Ambassador to the United States and Governor George Pataki, the first-ever Hungarian American candidate for President of the United States.

Mr. J. Joe Adorjan, delivers his acceptance remarks. Photo by Mike Olliver

Other prominent guests included Dr. Tamás Fellegi, President and CEO of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Mr. John Lipsky, former First Vice President of the International Monetary Fund and Mrs. Zsuzsanna Kárász Lipsky; Ambassador April Foley, Chairman of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation Board; Ms. Susan Hutchison, Chairwoman of the Republican Party from the state of Washington; Mr. Dávid József Szabó, Program Director at Századvég Foundation; Dr. Ariel Cohen, Founder and Director of the Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security; Mrs. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Coalition and Mr. John Lauer; Mr. László Hámos, President of the American Diaspora Council and the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. Stefan Fedor, Founders of the American Hungarian Heritage House in Washington D.C.; Mrs. Hajnalka Horváth-Tóth, Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Peter Tóth; Mr. Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and  Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey; and Mr. Peter Kalotai, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Hungarian Embassy.

Coalition board members in attendance included Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Dr. Agnes Virga, President of the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts; and Mrs. Csilla Grauzer, Honorary Consul President of the Minnesota Hungarians. Many Coalition friends were also present: Enikő Basa Molnár, Executive Director of the American Hungarian Educators Association and the Coalition interns’ “guardian angel”; Colonel Matt Smith and his wife Laura Balser; Krisztina Osvát, Counsellor at the Embassy of Hungary in charge of outreach to the Hungarian American community.

Following Mrs. Lauer Rice’s welcoming remarks, Ambassador Szemerkényi highlighted the challenges of the current migration crisis facing Hungary, emphasizing the global nature of the crisis and the need to strengthen the transatlantic relationship.  She expressed high praise for Mr. Adorjan, the Coalition’s honoree, by saying that he is a “special treasure to both Hungary and the Hungarian American community.”

After Amb. Szemerkényi’s remarks, Mrs. Lauer Rice reviewed the main ongoing Coalition programs, including the Congressional Internship Program, the Dr. Elemér and Éva Kiss Scholarship Fund and The Bognár Family Hungarian Scholarship Fund, as well as the Hungarian Americans Together (HATOG) conference series.  She described the significance of the 2015 Jubilee Scout Camp organized last month in Fillmore, NY, by Coalition founding member, the Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris. The organization celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. 

Mrs. Lauer-Rice also introduced The Memory Project, a new initiative undertaken with Coalition member and award-winning documentary filmmaker Réka Pigniczky.  They have filmed interviews with more than 35 Hungarian-Americans who immigrated to the US after the Second World War and after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.  These interviews, whose subjects include several leaders of the Coalition, not only provide a historic glimpse into the war and revolution in Hungary, but also reveal their personal stories of immigration to the United States and the challenges of remaining Hungarian while settling into a new country.  The video presentation was received with several rounds of applause by the audience.

In his introductory remarks following dinner, Ambassador George H. Walker III, Gala Co-Chair, praised his good friend, Mr. Adorjan by saying that “not only has Joe’s professional career been a tremendous success story, but what he has done in the last ten years to strengthen the ties between the U.S. and Hungary has been truly extraordinary.”

Coalition President Max Teleki then highlighted the milestones of the honoree’s life, stressing Mr. Adorjan’s tireless activities on behalf of the Hungarian-Missouri Educational Partnership. In addition to educational exchange, the program encourages personal ties among future U.S. and Hungarian leaders.

In accepting the award, Mr. J. Joe Adorjan said: “In my belief, by investing in the next generation of young Hungarians, we will make a difference in that country; we will build and strengthen our relationship with the United Stated and on behalf of HMEP I just want to thank you all for this wonderful honor.”

After the award ceremony, Ms. Susan Hutchison and Governor Pataki gave toasts about the importance of the traditional values held by Mr. Adorjan, and the connection felt by many in the room to their Hungarian heritage.

As Mrs. Lauer Rice concluded the evening, she thanked Zsolt Szekeres, Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator, and the four Coalition interns – Noémi Dalma Nagy, László Baksay, Lőrinc Thurnay and Benjámin Babicz for all their efforts that assured the success of the Gala Dinner.

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