University of Rochester

Polish Studies Center Renamed for Skalny Family

October 31, 2000

On Nov. 12, University of Rochester President Thomas H. Jackson and Dean of the College William Scott Green will dedicate and rename the Center for Polish and Central European Studies in honor of the Louis Skalny Foundation.

At the start of a week celebrating Polish heritage and the Polish community in Rochester, the dedication will follow a 2 p.m. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert at the Eastman Theatre. Jeff Tyzik, RPO principal pops conductor, will conduct the program of classical Polish works. Already under way will be the annual Polish Film Festival, which this year honors Oscar award winner Andrzej Wajda and other Polish directors during a cavalcade of showings at the Little Theatre.

The Polish Center at the University of Rochester, which was established in 1994 with a generous gift from the Louis Skalny Foundation, has attracted many dignitaries and has brought together faculty and students to study the historical legacy and political and economic changes within Central Europe. The center's new name is the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies.

Some of the center's celebrated guests have included Dr. Aleksander Koj, the rector of one of Poland's oldest and premier institutions, Jagiellonian University in Krakow; Grzegorz W. Kolodko, finance minister and deputy premier of Poland; and Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Poland's largest circulation daily and a hero of the opposition against the communists from 1968 to 1989.

The Rochester-based Louis Skalny Foundation provides the financial support for the center, which is housed in the University of Rochester's Department of Political Science. Jagiellonian University and the University of Rochester have an agreement to host visiting professors, offer student exchange opportunities, and promote other scholarly collaborations at their institutions.

More than a dozen professors from Poland have taught at Rochester, and each semester several hundred students take courses offered by the center or taught in conjunction with the center. In 1997, the universities held two joint conferences on the themes of democracy (in Krakow) and the history of Polish workers in Europe and America (in Rochester).

A close relationship with the local Polish-American community has attracted large audiences to the Skalny Lecture and Artist Series for discussions and performances as well as for the annual film festival each fall.

For the Nov. 12 concert, several members of Rochester's Polish community-Sabina Slepecki, a musician in the RPO's first violin section; soprano Mary Beth Wrobel; percussionist Peter Zlotnick; and pianist Kasia Slepecki, daughter of Sabina Slepecki-will perform. The program will include works by Chopin, Creston and Kilar. The free concert is sponsored by the city of Rochester. Tickets are available in advance through Polish organizations or on the day of the performance at the door.

The dedication and renaming of the center will take place after the concert at a reception for invited guests.

All four members of the Skalny family and the trustees of the foundation were present at the official ceremony opening the center in 1994: Joseph Skalny, Frederic Skalny, Stanislawa Skalny and Anna Skalny. The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland and the General Consul of Poland in New York both sent letters of congratulations on the occasion.

The range of professors coming from Jagiellonian University to Rochester have been impressive, including Adam Walaszek, a historian and specialist on the Polish diaspora, who is teaching this semester; Krzysztof Zamorski, director of the oldest Jagiellonian library; and theater professor Krzysztof Plesniarowicz. Others such as Halina Moszczynska, a psychologist; Jacek Wasilewski, a sociologist and member of the Polish Academy of Science; and Wieslaw Krajka, a specialist on Joseph Conrad from Marie Sklodowska Curie University in Lublin, have been recipients of the Kosciuszko Foundation Senior Teaching fellowships. All teach in the social sciences and humanities, but the majority of courses affiliated with the center are taught by University of Rochester faculty.

Each year, a Certificate of Concentration in Polish and Central European Studies is awarded to several graduating seniors who meet the requirements of the program.

The center also coordinates a book series about Poland and Central Europe, which a published by the University of Rochester Press. The series, called Rochester Studies in Central Europe, has produced its first two books: Lessons in Democracy, edited by Ewa Hauser, director of the Skalny Center, and Jacek Wasilewski, and Post-Communist Transition: The Thorny Road by Grzegorz W. Kolodko. This fall, Kolodko is teaching in the Department of Political Science as the John C. Evans Visiting Professor in Polish Studies.

Tickets for individual films (with English subtitles) during the Polish Film Festival from Nov. 10 to 16 are available at the Little Theatre box office, 240 East Ave. A new addition this year is the Rochester Polish American Invitational Art Exhibit at the Little Theatre Café Gallery from Oct. 23 to Dec. 9, with a reception for the public and the artists at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 15.