Celebrating a 40-year partnership

Celebrating the anniversary of Indiana University-University of Warsaw Partnership, the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw, and the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University
University of Warsaw
Kazimierzowski Palace
The Senate Hall
Warsaw, Poland

Wednesday, June 01, 2016


Thank you and good afternoon. Dzhen dobree.

Rector Pałys; Ambassador Schnepf; members of the University of Warsaw faculty and staff; and distinguished guests:

It is truly a great honor and a privilege to be here at the University of Warsaw—one of Indiana University’s oldest and most valued international partners—for this celebration of the 40th anniversary of the partnership between our two institutions and the two area studies centers that have helped to enrich our understanding of the world and that have played important roles in our missions of education and research.

In May 1996, my predecessor, President Myles Brand, visited Poland to observe the 20th anniversary of our relationship with the University of Warsaw. President Brand was accompanied by his wife, Peg Zeglin Brand, whose family had emigrated from Poland to the United States in the 1920s.

I am delighted to be here 20 years later to reaffirm our continuing and deep interest in—and admiration and respect for—the Republic of Poland.

That Poland has recovered and rebounded so successfully and dynamically after many decades of tragedy and horror to be once again one of the leading countries of Europe, is a testimony to the extraordinary resilience and moral courage of the Polish people.

Your country has also contributed greatly to the scholarly and intellectual life of Indiana University over many years. Over the past 40 years, distinguished Polish scholars, writers, and leaders have come to Bloomington. Their presence has been of great benefit to faculty and students at the university and to the wider Polish American community in the United States.

Indiana University and the University of Warsaw: four decades of partnership

I also want to extend my most sincere congratulations on behalf of Indiana University to all of our colleagues at the University of Warsaw on the university’s 200th anniversary, which will be observed in November.

The University of Warsaw has a remarkable, 200-year history of research and scholarship of the highest order. This history includes five Nobel Prizes, highly-ranked programs, an eminent academic staff, and graduates who have gone on to prominence in science, the arts and humanities, government, and many other fields.

I would also like to take this opportunity for some personal reflections about the University of Warsaw.

My original academic field was mathematical logic, though I moved early into computer science. Mathematical logic is fundamental to computer science for it bears the same relationship to it as calculus does to physics. Without mathematical logic there would be no computer science and no computers. 

Much of the foundations of mathematical logic were laid in the period between the wars. These comprised some of the most profound achievements ever of the human intellect. And much of this foundational work was done at three great universities: the University of Cambridge in England, the University of Göttingen in Germany, and here at the University of Warsaw.

Some of the greatest mathematical logicians in history studied here or were on the faculty here, and I am sure these will be familiar names to many of you. They include: Jan Łukasiewicz; Wacław Sierpinski; Kazimierz Kuratowski; Adolf Lindenbaum; Andrzej Mostowski (who I had the honor to meet and hear lecture in 1974 and whose son is, as I understand it, on the faculty here); Helana Rasiowa (who visited IU in 1975); and of course, maybe most famously, Alfred Tarski.

In fact, Tarski and Kurt Gödel were the two greatest mathematical logicians in history. And if the center of mathematical logic moved to the United States after the Second World War, it was in significant part because Gödel and Tarski had fled the Nazis—Gödel to Princeton and Tarski to Berkeley.

I have books by all of these great logicians on my bookshelves and now they will always remind me of my visit to the University of Warsaw.

So once again we offer our most sincere congratulations for 200 years of inspired intellectual leadership in Poland, Europe and the world.

At Indiana University, we are also preparing to celebrate in 2020 the bicentennial of the founding of Indiana University in 1820.

Major milestones such as the bicentennials of our institutions, and the 40th anniversary of the partnership we celebrate today, are of great importance in the life of any institution. They are occasions for celebration and pride. They give us the opportunity to plan for the future of our institutions to ensure their continued success. They also give us the opportunity to reflect on all that our institutions have achieved.

Forty years ago, when the partnership between our institutions began, formal exchanges between the United States and Poland were few due to the Cold War. Lack of trust and misunderstanding that marked relations between the United States and the Soviet Union added to the growing hostility between the two nations and led to a hardening of the division between eastern and western Europe.

In this difficult environment, the visionary leaders of both our institutions agreed in 1976 to enter into a reciprocal partnership which led to the establishment of two area studies centers that have enjoyed great success for 40 years: the American Studies Center here in Warsaw and the Polish Studies Center at IU Bloomington.

The vital importance of area studies scholarship

Area studies research and scholarship—which enhances our knowledge of the history, cultures, religions, politics, economies, institutions, art, and literature of other countries—has been vitally important over the last half century, and remains so today. In fact, Jerry Bentley, the founding editor of the Journal of World History, wrote that “area studies scholarship has generated more knowledge and better knowledge than any earlier project to understand the larger world (and) has pointed beyond the development of basic information… to the formulation of understanding, insight, and even wisdom about the larger world.”1

This is certainly true of the two centers whose anniversaries we celebrate today.

Because of the success of Indiana University’s Russian and East European Institute —which was founded in 1951 as the East European Institute—IU was honored to be approached by the U.S. State Department in the mid-1970s about the possibility of partnering with the University of Warsaw. Indiana University’s 14th president, John Ryan, enthusiastically supported the idea—as did Zygmunt Rybicki, then-rector of the University of Warsaw—and the partnership we celebrate today was born.

The University of Warsaw’s American Studies Center very quickly became the focal point for the study of the United States in east-central Europe. During the Cold War, its library was the only open access library east of Berlin and was highly influential in promoting American Studies not only in Poland, but throughout Eastern Europe.

Many of those who have been affiliated with the center have gone on to play senior roles in government, academia, and public affairs here in Poland both before and after the fall of communism.

I should also note that Franciszek Lyra, the first Polish citizen to earn an advanced degree from Indiana University, was affiliated for many years with the American Studies Center. Professor Lyra also helped found the English Department at Maria Curie- Skłodowska University. As well, he helped found the Poland chapter of the Indiana University Alumni Association, and received IU’s Distinguished International Service Award in 2011 for those efforts.

And, of course, for 40 years, the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University has shaped and enhanced IU’s longstanding tradition of quality scholarship on Polish literature, art, music, history, society, politics, and related areas in the humanities and social sciences.

IU’s Polish Studies Center has also been honored to host visits by some of the most important figures in Polish politics and culture, including former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lech Walesa in 1998 (whose lecture I heard and whom I met), and the late Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz.

IU’s Polish Studies Center is now part of the recently-formed School of Global and International Studies, which we inaugurated in 2013. The school brings together Indiana University’s long-standing strengths in global studies, including its strengths in area studies and language instruction. IU offers instruction in more than 70 foreign languages. No other university in the U.S. offers more—and some of the languages offered at IU are not taught at any other American university. IU has long offered Polish language instruction through the third-year level during the academic year as well as a summer intensive language program.

We were fortunate to hire as the founding dean of the School of Global and International Studies, Lee Feinstein, who served as the United States Ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012, and from whom you will hear in a moment.

And, of course, the partnership between our universities has also meant that dozens of IU faculty and graduate students have been able to study and teach here in Poland, and an equal number of scholars from the University of Warsaw have come to Indiana University in Bloomington.

Earlier today, I was pleased to sign an agreement, along with Rector Pałys, that renews and extends the productive partnership between IU and the University of Warsaw.

Partnership in Europe

The partnership between IU and the University of Warsaw is one of the cornerstones of Indiana University’s long and extensive history of international partnership and engagement.

Because much of that international engagement has been based in Europe, it was fitting that, last year, we established the IU Europe Gateway Office, which now serves as a home base for IU activities in Europe. Located in Berlin, the office supports scholarly research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad programs, distance learning initiatives, executive and corporate training, alumni events, and much, more.

The IU Europe Gateway Office, first and foremost, however, is symbolic of Indiana University’s desire to work in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation with European universities, business, and other institutions, as well as Europe’s social and cultural leaders.

Our 40-year partnership with the University of Warsaw also reflects that commitment.


The longstanding collaboration between the University of Warsaw and Indiana University has brought enormous benefits to both institutions. Our students have shared ideas and learned from each other’s perspectives. Extraordinary strong personal bonds have linked members of our faculties, who have grown in wisdom and ability through 40 years of collaboration.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our partnership, and as the American Studies Center and the Polish Studies Center enter the next phase of their operation, I am confident that the partnership between our institutions will continue to thrive.

On behalf of Indiana University, I extend my congratulations and most sincere thanks to Rector Pałys and his predecessors; to all of the faculty and staff of the University of Warsaw; and to all those who have been affiliated with the two centers that have helped to make this partnership an enormous success over 40 years.

And to the University of Warsaw, I extend Indiana University’s best wishes for continued success in the next 200 years and beyond.

Presentation of Hart Benton Medallion to Rector Marcin Pałys

Rector Pałys, would you join me at the podium?

Rector Pałys, Indiana University greatly values its partnership with the University of Warsaw.

For four decades, this splendid partnership has brought enormous benefits to both of our institutions—and to both of our countries.

It has profoundly and positively affected the lives of many students and faculty of both institutions by providing an opportunity for intensive growth and learning.

The American Studies Center here at the University of Warsaw and the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University have helped the people of our respective nations learn more about one another and have contributed enormously to the formulation of understanding, insight, and wisdom about the larger world.

To recognize such outstanding partnerships, Indiana University established the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. First given in 1986, the bronze medal features a representation of a portion of American artist Thomas Hart Benton’s murals depicting the “Social and Industrial History of Indiana.” The majority of the Benton murals are now located in the Indiana University Auditorium, with additional panels in other locations on our Bloomington campus.

The reverse side of the medallion features the seal of Indiana University. It symbolizes the aspirations and ideals that are the foundation of the search for knowledge—aspirations and ideals that Indiana University and the University of Warsaw share.

And so, by the authority vested in me by the Trustees of Indiana University, and in gratitude for all the University Warsaw has done over 40 years to foster the partnership we celebrate today, I present to you, Rector Marcin Pałys, the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion.

Source notes

  1. Jerry H. Bentley, “Globalizing History and Historicizing Globalization”, Globalizations 1 (1) (September 2004): 69-81. Reprinted in Globalization and Global History, Barry K. Gills and William R. Thompson. ed., (Routledge, 2006).