Dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, the 24th SVU World Congress has come to an end. While bidding farewell to the group departing for the High Tatras on September 14th, my thoughts turned to what we have achieved at this Congress. The program of the Congress consisted of 26 panels in social sciences, economy, natural science and medicine. The panels were interesting in content and of very good quality. The cultural program was rich in scope and in delivery. Participants from around the world were warmly welcomed by the city and university officials, by the students and by people of Ružomberok. This small town nestled amidst the rolling hills of Slovakia and its people provided a congenial and stimulating atmosphere for the meeting.
At a welcoming party on Sunday, September 7th, participants met with a number of dignitaries: Professor Milan Čič of the Office of the President of Slovak Republic, the Lord-Mayor of the city of Ružomberok, Michal Slaštan,Vice President of the Catholic University, Stanislav Košč and the President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Professor Václav Pačes.
The mass on Monday morning was celebrated by Archbishop of Košice, Msgr. Alojz Tkáč. His co-celebrants were Msgr. Tomáš-Gališ, Bishop of Žilina and Msgr. Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. The mass was dedicated to the birth of Virgin Mary. The Bishops wished success to the SVU Congress and addressed the role and responsibility of scientists and physicians.
The opening ceremonies began with an academic procession of gowned representatives of Slovak universities. The Congress was opened by His Magnificence Stanislav Košč, Vice President of the Catholic University, followed by Hon. Michal Slaštan, Mayor of Ružomberok. On behalf of the SVU, the Congress was opened by SVU President Karel Raška, Jr., who remembered historical events of 1918, 1938, 1948 and 1968. He also briefly recapitulated the fifty year history of SVU and its role in a changing world. In addition, Dr. Raška read personal greetings of the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus. Salutations of President Ivan Gašparovic were presented by Professor Milan Čič. The participants then heard greetings by representatives of Czech government, members of the Slovak, Czech and European parliaments, US Embassy in Bratislava and the Academies of Science of both republics. The participants had an opportunity to meet with the dignitaries at a formal reception that followed.
The plenary session dedicated to the 50th anniversary of SVU heard presentations of Dr. Míla Rechcígl, Jr., Dr. Zdenĕk Slouka (read by Dr. Petr Hausner), Professor Jaroslav Pánek, Ambassador Vladimír Galuška, and Professor Karel Raška, Jr.
Representatives of the SVU then attended Lord-Mayor Slaštan’s reception at the municipal offices and signed a memorial book celebrating the event.
The opening day was closed by a merry “Evening with operetta” with maestro Ivan Ožvát.
Academic sessions took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. There were over 20 panels of lectures, a well-balanced mixture of history, political science, management, economy, and medicine, reflecting the breath and depth of membership of our Society. There also were two special lectures. All presentations were well attended. At times, there was standing room only. The social program included three concerts: David di Fiore with the organ, piano evening with Richard Rikkon and an evening of folklore with troupe Liptov. There also was an opening of an art exhibit of Mr. Rusko. All of the cultural events were of high quality and were enthusiastically applauded by Congress participants.
On Thursday, there was a day trip to city of Košice with a brief stop at Spiš castle. At the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University the attendees were greeted by the Dean and by the choir of the University “Benedikt”. Professor Mojmír Povolný received a prize of the Prague SVU Chapter.
The academic program concluded on Friday with a final series of lecture panels.
The 2008 general assembly of SVU convened on Friday afternoon. Members viewed videotaped message and greetings of Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for education. The Treasurer’s report presented by Dr. Eugene Martin and the Auditors’ reports presented by Dr. Zdeněk David were approved. Dr. Raška presented the 2008 Presidential SVU citations to individuals with exceptional contributions to SVU. The recipients were Miloslav Rechcígl, Jr., Eva Rechcígl, Zdeněk David, Vlado Šimko, Eugene Martin, Dalibor Mikuláš, Jiří Eichler, Clinton Machann, and Ladislav Mravec. The winners of the Hašek student awards were introduced by Dr. Ivo Feierabend. The term of the 2006-2008 SVU Executive Board thus ended.
For the Nominating committee Dr. Míla Rechcígl then presented the official results of the ballot, which elected the new Executive Board for years 2008-2010. The members of the new Board are: Karel Raška, Jr., Vlado Šimko, Peter Filip, Petr Hausner, Charles Heller, Michael Krompholz, Charles Kulp, Eugene Martin, Cecilia Rokusek, George Tesař, Zdeněk David, and Vladimir Kysucký.
The general assembly then approved a motion that the term of office of the Presidents of the Executive Board and local chapters be limited to three consecutive terms, that is six years. The motion carried unanimously, with one abstention.
On behalf of the new Executive Board, Dr. Raška thanked the participants and adjourned the Congress.
The evening banquet entertained by live Slovak music was a dignified conclusion of the Congress.
On Saturday, September 13th, the participants visited the village of Vlkolínec, listed as a world treasure in the UNESCO registry. The luncheon feast was also accompanied by traditional, live folklore music. The last optional event was a day trip to the High Tatras, the beautiful Slovak mountains.
I want to thank three individuals who were with us throughout the week and without whom the success of the Congress would not have been possible. They were: Dr. Dalibor Mikuláš of the Catholic University, Dr. Ján Pavlík and Ms. Monika Weissová of the office of the City of Ružomberok. Together these three assumed responsibility for developing every detail of the program and for insuring the operational success of the program.
Our thanks also go to the group of twenty students of the Catholic University who helped us in all aspects of the program, especially to Mr. Peter Nemec, who was helping us with the Congress website, with accommodations, registration and everything else.
On the SVU side I want to thank Drs. Zdeněk David and Eugene Martin who helped me to organize the program and to all others who contributed in various ways to the success of the Congress.
The whole Congress was a truly Czechoslovak event. It brought Czechs and Slovaks worldwide together and demonstrated warm relations between our two nations.
The SVU demonstrated that, 50 years after its foundation it still continues to have a role in a world that has completely changed. We have won new friends for the Czech Republic and Slovakia and many young Czechs and Slovaks have joined the Society. American scholars without Czechoslovak roots already show interest in our next meeting.
The 24th World Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences was a dignified celebration of our half-centennial anniversary and a challenge for the next fifty years!
Thank you Ružomberok!
Karel Raška, Jr.