Edith Lauer Represents U.S. Organization at Opening Ceremony
Washington, DC – September 14, 2004, was a historic day in Komarno (Révkomárom), Slovakia, where hundreds of citizens and several officials from Slovakia and Hungary attended the official opening of the Selye János University. The founding of a Hungarian-language university has long been a key goal of the historic Hungarian community of Slovakia, which numbers 520,000, and is the culmination of a decade of efforts by the Hungarian Coalition Party in Slovakia.
In his opening remarks, University Rector Sándor Albert said: “Once it was kings who founded universities, but today it is up to parliaments to do so. Being the first [Hungarian university in Slovakia] is both a historic responsibility and great challenge. Our mission is to collect and pass on to the next generation the knowledge and values of our people.” At the end of his speech he paraphrased Martin Luther King’s famous words: “I, too, have a deep-seated dream: that the students of the Selye János University not be judged according to their ethnic identity but rather their character and knowledge.”
In his speech, Hungary’s Minister of Education, Bálint Magyar, stressed that the new university is the result of a process that is, or should be, a natural process for countries of the European Union: “Although this institution has had a very difficult beginning, it is after all nothing more than the realization of one of the most basic human rights of EU citizens, to be educated in their native language.”
Slovak Minister of Education, Martin Fronc, expressed his hope the Selye János University will be a “bridge between Slovaks and Hungarians.”
Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky unveiled the statue of Selye János, a famous Hungarian physician, with Béla Bugár, Vice President of the Slovak Parliament. Mr. Csáky commented on the potential for future expansion of the University in nearby cities. He also urged Hungarian academics and officials to encourage Hungarian students from other universities to consider transferring, in order to make Selye János into a viable institution.
The Slovak government supported the establishment of the University with 100 million korona (approximately three million dollars), while the Hungarian government has pledged 130 million forints ($640,000) for operational costs. Later this month, 362 students will begin studying in three departments: Protestant theology, teacher-training/pedagogy, and business/economics.
Edith Lauer, Secretary of the National Committee of Hungarians from Slovakia and Chair Emerita of the Hungarian American Coalition, attended the ceremony, and conveyed to Rector Albert the sincere congratulations and best wishes for success of the National Committee, whose leadership pledged to donate $2,000 for a mutually agreed-upon project at Selye János University. “This was a truly memorable occasion,” Ms. Lauer said. “Hungarian Americans appreciate what a historic milestone this is, as there has not been a Hungarian university in (Czecho)Slovakia since 1920.”