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Moravian College President honored by the Czech Republic

President Rokke receives medal of honor and honorary diploma from Ambassador Kolar

Bethlehem, Pa., June 23, 2006—Petr Kolar, ambassador of the Czech Repulic to the United States, arrived in Bethlehem last week to present Dr. Ervin J. Rokke, president of Moravian College with the prestigious Jan Masaryk Silver Memorial Medal and Honorary Diploma from the Czech Republic in recognition of Rokke's dedicated commitment to higher education and to international diplomacy. The awards were presented during a luncheon program in Peter Hall at the Moravian College Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus. The medal is named in honor of Jan Masaryk, son of the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, who was a foreign minister and ambassador to the United States.

Guests from the Czech Republic included: the Ambassador and his wife Jaroslava Kolar; Vilma Anyzova, counselor for culture, science and education, Embassy of the Czech Republic, Cultural Section; Ivo Broskevic, second secretary, Embassy of the Czech Republic, Cultural Section; Jaroslav Kurfurst, Deputy Chief of Mission and Political Counselor; and Peter Rafaeli, Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Pa.; and Michael Rokos, president of the American Friends of the Czech Republic. Also in attendance were Charlene Mowers, executive director, Historic Bethlehem Partnership; Lyn Trodahl Chynoweth, chair of the Seminary Board of Trustees; members of the Moravian College Board of Trustees; senior College officials; members of the faculties of the College and Seminary; and invited guests also attended the luncheon in honor of the Ambassador's visit.

Curt Keim, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty presided over the program, welcoming guests and introducing both president Rokke, and ambassador Kolar.  Rokke greeted the guests and spoke of the strong ties between Moravian and the Czech Republic. “We trust that our distinguished guests from the Czech Republic will feel very much at home at Moravian, for we are an institution whose historical roots and enduring mission are closely tied to Czech history, experience, and thought,” said Ervin J. Rokke.

Moravian’s heritage springs from Bishop John Amos Comenius, a 17th century scholar who is widely known as the “Father of Modern Education.” Bishop Comenius was born in Moravia, an area that is now part of the Czech Republic. “His vision for education was truly revolutionary for its time: he emphasized the holistic development of a student’s mind, body, and spirit. He promoted the education of women, an unheard-of notion in his day... and he believed that learning should be a lifelong process,” Rokke explained.

Rokke also acknowledged the longstanding association between Moravian and its Czech friends that is more than historical and symbolic in character. He explained, “Year after year, Moravian welcomes Czech students to its classrooms and community. Moravian College students and faculty are currently touring and studying in Prague. Our galleries have offered a progression of exhibits with Czech themes. And recently, the Czech Embassy in Washington has graciously hosted gatherings of Moravian alumni, as well as a performance by the Moravian Choir.”

At the conclusion of a luncheon in honor of the Czech constituency and Dr. Rokke, Ambassador Kolar expressed his warm regard for Moravian, describing it as "a community in which he could feel at home." He expressed happiness and pride to see an educational institution like Moravian College thriving in the United States, and finding institutions of learning that turn out such great and wonderful people. He commented also on the cordial relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic, and his pleasure in participating in such a relationship. The Ambassador praised Dr. Rokke as "a colleague and friend who is most deserving of the Medal of Honor and Honorary Diploma bestowed upon him by the government of the Czech Republic."

Ambassador Kolar received his appointment to the United States a year ago. During the course of his distinguished career he has served as the Czech Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to both the Republic of Ireland and the Kingdom of Sweden, as well as in advisory and research positions at the Center for Peace and Disarmament Issues of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science, and at the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defense in Prague. He was involved as an advisor on European Integration and the Balkans to former Czech President Vaclav Halvel, and was a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University on the topic of European integration and the Balkan conflicts resulting in the publication of a number of specialized articles. The Ambassador is a graduate of Charles University with majors in Information Technology, Library Science and Ethnography. Post-graduate studies continued at Woodrow Wilson International Center, Washington, DC, and the University of London, Institute of Historical Research, Great Britain. His academic career focused on the National Revival period, but more recently his interest is in contemporary history since 1989 (in particular the period from 1938 to 1948), present international conflicts and relations between small and large states.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.