LITUANUS
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
 
Volume 42, No.3 - Fall 1996
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1996 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lituanus

BALTIC STUDIES ENDOWED FUND ESTABLISHED WITH GIFTS TOTALING $50,000

In an emotional ceremony on May 15, representatives from the University of Washington (UW) and Seattle's Baltic community gathered on the UW campus for the signing of an historic document the Baltic Studies endowed Fund agreement. The fund will provide support for the Program in Baltic Studies at the University of Washington, which currently includes Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian studies.

The endowment was established with cash gifts totaling $50,000, raised through a grassroots effort. More than 200 individuals and organizations contributed to the fund; the largest donation, a $10,000 gift, came from the Lithuanian World Community Foundation.

"To study the Baltic languages and cultures has always made sense", said Daniel Waugh, associate professor of history and international studies, who spearheaded the effort to bring Baltic Studies to the University of Washington, along with Thomas DuBois and Guntis Smidchens of the Department of Scandinavian Studies. "Now finally, we have found the wisdom to ensure that such study will become a permanent part of our curriculum. No other American university is attempting to do what we are, in fact, doing here. This effort is deserving of the broadest national and international support."

The UW's Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literature has been offering courses in Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian as part of its curriculum since 1994. It is the only department in North America offering all three languages. At the signing ceremony, the department's chair, Terje Leiren, told the gathered supporters, "The endowment officially established today is proof that the University is responsive to the community's needs, and by placing Baltic Studies in the Scandinavian Department, ensured that students and scholars in the United States can study the Baltic countries in its legitimate context as part of the European north. The foundation has been built. We must now see to it that the house too will stand and serve future generations who believe the stories of Scandinavia and the Baltic nations can teach us something about being Americans."

Professor Vidmantas Raisys, director of toxicology at the UW Medical Center and a member of the Program in Baltic Studies Committee, signed the endowment as the Baltic community's donor representative. Before signing, he said, "One might ask, 'Why are we willing to spend out time, money, and efforts to establish this Baltic Studies Program?' One reason is very selfish. We, Baltic Americans, would like to provide the opportunity to our children and grandchildren to study their heritage. ...Another reason is that we would like to share our languages, our rich culture, and our history with our fellow Americans. By having programs in Baltic Studies at American universities, hopefully we will hear less often of the Balkan states when people mean the Baltic states."

After the signing of the document, Thomas DuBois, associate professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature, presented a toast that expressed the sense of accomplishment felt by everyone involved in the Baltic Studies effort. He said that he realized the study of Northern Europe would be transformed when the Soviet Union dissolved, but did not anticipate that the Baltic-American citizens of Washington state and the University of Washington would be prime movers in this intellectual transformation. "I knew that Washington state is blessed with wonderful ethnic communities, proud of their heritage and imbued with a progressive, indomitable pioneer spirit," DuBois said. "And I knew that Baltic Americans throughout America, separated by thousands of miles and sometimes by multiple generations from their homelands, held the torch of memory defiantly in a Cold War era that wanted to forget the very notion of Baltic independence. ...What I didn't know at the time, and what I do know now, is the grit and determination of our state's Baltic American community and the openness to new ideas and possibilities of our state's flagship institution, the University of Washington. I stand here now in awe of those things and happy to have witnessed them in action."

Several participants in the Baltic Studies effort emphasized that they hope to reach many more supporters nationwide and add significantly to the Baltic Studies endowed Fund. For information on the Fund or the Baltic Studies Program at the University of Washington, please contact Tracey Hinkle at (206) 616-2086 or access the University of Washington Scandinavian Studies Web site at http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scand.

Tracey Hinkle