A Charter 77 Day was held in Prague on the 10th of January 1997, on the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Charter 77. It consisted in several events aimed at recalling the history and continuing value of its basic ideals.
As part of Charter 77 Day the Research Board of Charles University met in a celebratory session devoted to the anniversary, and this included the award of an honorary Doctorate of Legal Sciences to Aung San Suu Kyi, holder of the Nobel Prize for Peace and General Secretary of the Burmese National League for Democracy.
The celebratory session took place in the afternoon in the Bethlem Chapel and journralists, photographers and TV crews were there to record the event. An introductory speech was given by Prof. Pavel Klenet, CU Pro-Rector, who welcomed many figures from academic and political life in the Czech Republic and abroad. The Director of the President's Office Ivan Medek then read an address from the Czech President Vaclav Havel, in the President expressed his support for Madame Suu Kyi and the development of democracy in Burma. Professor Prof. dr. Ladislav Hejdanek, Dr. h. c., of the CU Philosophical Faculty, and former Charter 77 spokesman, gave the main speech, devoted to the organisation's past and leading figures, and to reflection on its mission especially for today's younger generation.
The Laudatio was read by the Dean of the Law Faculty Prof. Dusan Hendrych, and mentioned some of the important dates in the life and work of Aung San Suu Kyi:
Aung San Suu Kyi (born on the 19th of June 1945 in Rangoon) studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St. Hugh's College, Oxford (1967), and then worked for several years in the Secretariat of the UN organisation in New York. In 1972 she married Michael Aris, a British citizen. In the years 1972 - 1988 she lived successively in Bhutan, Japan and India, and devoted herself to her family and further studies - she remained, however, a citizen of Myonmar (Burma). When, in 1987, the National League for Democracy (hereafter the NLD) was founded in Myonmar, Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed as its General Secretary. At the head of the NLD she sharply critized the policies of the military regime and this resulted in ever more frequent persecution by the military authorities (abuse in the press, house arrest, internment). The NLD under Aung San Suu Kyi won the General Elections (1990), but the government of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) rejected the results and Suu Kyi was once again interned and punished with house arrest - nor was this overturned even after Aun San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991 at the suggestion of the President of the then Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, Vaclav Havel. It was only as a result of widespread public pressure that Suu Kyi was released in 1995 and once again stood at the head of the NLD. The fifty-year-old Aun San Suu Kyi is also the author od a series of articles and books. The most imnportant in this context is her essay "Freedom from Fear and Other Writings", which was published in Great Britain with a preface by President Vaclav Havel. In addition to the Nobel Prize Suu Kyi has received many other awards.
The degree formula was read by Prof. Alena Winterova, Pro-Dean of the CU Philosophical Faculty. Aun San Suu Kyi's husband, Prof. Michael Aris of Oxford University, accepted the diploma on behalf of his wife, who is again under house arrest in Burma. In a speech translated and reead by Prof. Aris, Madame Suu Kyi expressed her thanks to Charles University for the award of the honorary doctorate and added: "I would like to believe that by accepting an honorary doctorate from Charles University, I am anticipating a time when the academic institutions of Burma will be able freely to express their support for just causes. Indeed, the best proof of a free society is when intellectuals may express their politic convictions without fear of official retaliation."
After the celebratory session Prof. Aris signed the commemorative book of Charles University and answered questions from journalists.
As part of Charter 77 Day the Man in Distress Foundation and the Open Society Institute/Burma Project held a conference in the Rudolfinum in the afternoon under the aegis of the President of the Republic Vaclav Havel. It was on the theme of the Legacy of Charter 77 and Global Perspectives of Open Society. Many distinguished people from the Czech Republic and abroad attended and made their contributions.
The twentieth anniversary of Charter 77 ended with an evening meeting of all the chartists in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle.
The Institute of Romance Studies at the CU Philosophical Faculty and the Circle of Modern Philosophers jointly proposed the award of a Charles University Silver Commemorative Medal to Professor Marcel Girard, who for many years taught French language and literature and headed the French Ernest Denise Institute in Prague.
At a ceremony in the reception rooms of the Carolinum on the 1st of October 1996, Professor Girard received the commemorative medal from the hands of the Rector of CU Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly, DrSc.
In his introductory address the Dean of the CU Philosophical Faculty doc. PhDr. Frantisek Vrhel, CSc., emphasised the significance of Marcel Girard's achievements in propagating French culture in Czechoslovakia and promoting the good name of Czech culture and literature abroad.
Professor Girard visited Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1934, and in 1945 was entrusted by the French Foreign Ministry with the revival of the activities of the Ernest Denise Institute, where he was subsequently appointed as director. At the same time he worked as a contract professor of French language and literature at the CU Philosophical Faculty. After the forced closure of the Prague Institute Prof. Girard was compelled to leave the Republic for political reasons. He did not, however, forget the country, but tirelessly promoted Czech culture abroad and tried to revive Czech-French relations. In the years after the November Revolution he once again lectured in the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University. Last year Prof. Girard celebrated his eightieth birthday.
The official three-day state visit of Jordanian Crown Prince Hasan bin Talal (beginning on the 28th of October 1996) included a meeting with the President and the Prime Minister of the CR, one purpose of the meeting with the President being the signing of an implementation programme for Czech-Jordanian social and cultural co-operation for the years 1996-1999. The Crown Prince, who holds a number of degrees from various leading universities, is well-known for his intellectual and academic interests. In addition to his political activities, the Crown Prince has a reputation for his efforts in the field of science, research and education. In 1970 he was entrusted with the founding of the Jordanian Royal Society, in 1981 he established the Arab Thought Forum aimed at bringing the intellectual elite of the Arab world together and closer to the decision-making sphere, and he is also Chairman of the Jordanian Board for Science and Research. At the end of his state visit Crown Prince Hasan was awarded a Charles University Commemorative Medal for his "contribution to the development of Czech-Jordanian relations in the academic field." The award, made on the morning of the 30th of October in the Brozik Hall of Prague's Old Town Hall, was both an expression of appreciation for the Jordanian guest's achievements and a stimulus for further developments in relations between the two countries. In his laudatory address the Dean of the CU Philosophical Faculty Doc. PhDr. Frantisek Vrhel, CSc., said that "the tradition of Arab studies at the Philosophical Faculty has been uninterrupted since the mid-19th Century." Today Charles University cultivates regular contacts not only with the Jordanian University in Amman, but also with other Jordanian academic institutions, as Dean Vrhel pointed out when introducing the honorand. Before presenting the medal, Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly, DrSc., Rector of Charles University, made a short speech in which he stressed the importance of the work of the Crown Prince especially in the support of "the school system, research and education...". In a brief speech of thanks Prince Hasan took up the idea that "the great task confronting the world is to find means of coexistence - the challenge facing all of us is how to to create a multicultural society with a shared civilisation. The dialogue which we are deepening will become a benefit to our history, as we begin to write that history in a human way." The ceremonial award of the Commemorative Medal in the Brozik Hall was concluded by CU Pro-Rector Prof. MUDr. Pavel Klener, DrSc. The CU Rector offered his personal congratulations and good wishes for the Jordanian nation as a whole to the distinguished Jordanian guest, who was accompanied by his wife Sarvat, son Rashed and daughter Rahma. At then end of his short visit to the Old Town Hall the Crown Prince Hasan bin Talal signed the Charles University Album.
On Monday, the 21st of October 1996, a degree ceremony took place in the Bethlem Chapel. It was attended by senior officers of Charles University headed by its Rector Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly, DrSc. and by rectors of other Czech and Slovak universities and members of the diplomatic corps. Two Charles University Honorary Doctorates were awarded on the basis of proposals from the research boards of the CU Medical Faculty in Plzen and the CU Philosophical Faculty.
Prof. Dr. Alan Boyde, of University College, London, had been nominated by the CU Medical Faculty in Plzen and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Medical Sciences.
Prof. Boyde received the honorary doctorate for his contributions to the development of microscopic methods in the observation of hard tissues. His interest in the natural sciences had started in his childhood. He had then studied and graduated in dentistry, but decided on a career in teaching and research. His doctoral thesis, "The Structure and Development of Mammalian Enamel" (published in London in 1964), describes the use of a number of new techniques in transmission and scanner electron microscopy and in radiograph microanalysis. These techniques were unique in biology and Prof. Boyde was the first to apply them. On the basis of his research he was invited to University College in London, where he founded a Group for Hard Tissues in the Anatomy Institute (Prof. Boyde has continued to lecture at London University). Prof. Alan Boyde is a member of many scientific societies in Great Britain and other countries. He is also active on the editorial boards of a number of scientific journals, and is himself the founder and editor of the journal Scanning. In 1970 Prof. Boyde accepted a British Council invitation to lecture in Prague. Later he made several other visits to Czechoslovakia and was a guest lecturer at the CU Medical Faculty in Plzen. During his visits he developed friendly and continuing co-operation with the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, and the Physics Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, as well as the Biophysics Institute of the CU MF in Plzen. Prof. Alan Boyde is an internationally recognised authority and has also made important contributions to the development of Czech science.
The second Honorary Doctorate, this time proposed by the CU Philosophical Faculty, was awarded to Emeritus Professor Goran Malmqvist of the University of Stockholm, for his achievements in research and translation in the field of Sinology and for his contributions to intercultural understanding.
Professor Malmqvist studied Classical and Roman Law at the University of Uppsala, and subsequently Chinese and Anthropology at the University in Stockholm. He became a representative of the distinguished Swedish School of Chinese Studies founded in the 1920s and 30s by the philologist and linguist Bernhard Kalgren, under whom he studied. He has worked as a professor of Chinese and Oriental Studies in many countries, including Sweden, Australia, Great Britain and China itself. He is a member of the Swedish Academy, the Royal Swedish Academy of Literature, History and Ancient Art, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and many other institutions. He has also been the recipient of numerous prizes and honours and is a leading figure in European and world Sinology. In the 1970s and 1980s, as long-term President of the European Association for Chinese Studies, he was active in the defence and support of Czech sinology here and abroad. He has continued to make important contributions to the renewal of the Prague school of Sinology and the renewal of Czech Sinology at Charles University.
In his recommendation to the Rector's Collegium that Prof. David H. Watkinson, PhD. be awarded a Charles University Commemorative Medal, Prof. RNDr. Zdenek Pertold. CSc. (Professor of Seam Geology at the CU Faculty of Natural Sciences, Pro-Rector for Study Matters), stressed his "outstanding contributions to the understanding of the hydrothermal systems of magmatic formations, and to the development of international scientific co-operation in Central Europe". The CU Rector's Collegium supported the proposal and Charles University awarded a Gold Commemorative Medal to David H. Watkinson on the 24th of October, 1996.
Leading geologist Prof. Watkinson works at Carleton University in Ottawa (he was appointed Professor in 1980), where he has created a school of magmatic petrology and seam geology. Prof. Watkinson collaborates with many Canadian institutions, and keeps in contact with numerous universities around the world (especially in the USA, France and Central Europe, but also, for example, in Korea). His specialist collaboration with the CU Faculty of Natural Sciences started in 1974, and his contacts with Czech scientists have extended outside the university (e.g. to the Central Geological Institute of the Academy of Sciences and industrial concerns). During the years of "normalisation" Professor Watkinson helped to overcome the academic isolation of the CU Faculty of Natural Sciences by providing it with subscriptions to scientific journals, the latest literature, and samples for collections, and by organising visits, lectures and excursions. His links to the Czech Republic are numerous, and based on many personal contacts cultivated over the past decades. Prof. Zdenek Pertold, CU Pro-Rector and a great friend of Prof. Watkinson, presented the geologist with his medal on behalf of Charles University. After the distinguished award had been made, the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences Prof. RNDr. Petr Cepek, CSc., expressed his thanks that Prof. Watkinson "was returning not only as a collaborator but above all as a friend..." He stressed that "Now that we once more enjoy academic freedom and freedom of travel, we can return to our normal relations," and ended with the words "I thank you very much for all you have done for us and hope that you will often return to us!"