At the beginning of March 1997 the President of Rumania, Prof. Emil Constantinescu, made an official state visit to the Czech Republic. This was one of his first visits abroad. His programme included a visit to Charles University, the oldest Czech university, which awarded him a CU Commemorative Medal in recognition of his remarkable academic work and his political endeavours for the renewal of democracy and prosperity in Rumania. The Charles University Commemorative Medal was presented to the Rumanian President by the CU Rector Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly, DrSc. on the 10th of March 1997 in the Patriotic Hall of the historic Carolinum, in a ceremony attended by leading university figures and many guests from academic and political life. CU Pro-Rector Prof. MUDr. Pavel Klener, DrSc. opened the proceedings with a laudatory address in which he recalled the main milestones in the life and career of the President of Rumania. He has published seven books and a large number of papers in scientific journals, and his research has been highly rated by societies for mineralogy and geology all over the world. His achievements in teaching are also significant: from 1966 he lectured at the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Bucharest, first as assistant and docent, and later as professor (1991). Thanks to the respect which he enjoyed in the University of Bucharest he was elected its Rector in 1992. At the same time he was active as Chairman of the Nationwide Council of Rectors in Rumania, and on the international level, as a member of the Managing Committee of the Association of European Universities.
His political engagement and commitment to the betterment of his country led him to join his students in the street demonstrations against Ceaucescu's dictatorship in December 1989, and later brought him to the head of the Civic Alliance and the state.
The president and his colleagues have managed, in a short time, to implement a series of important steps to improve the domestic political climate and the country's international relations.
The Charles University leadership hopes that the visit of the Rumanian president will inspire and assist the development of co-operation between Czech and Rumanian universities and, more generally, contribute to the expansion of mutual political, economic and cultural relations.
In his philosophically oriented lecture Professor Emil Constaninescu expressed his gratitude for the "opportunity to address the professors and students of Charles University." Then Professor Constantinescu's presented some reflections on the position of universities in the modern world, and we shall quote the following:
"Now, at the end of the millenium, universities face another danger: the market economy. The university is not, and must not be allowed to become an institution of the market economy. The university is a place of freedom, reflection and debate. The need to speed up the modernization of our universities should not lead us to overlook the fact that every university in the world is a part of Europe and remains so only as long as tolerance, reason and pluralism are the values on which its intellectual activities are based. Let us not sacrifice to technology and the market economy the simple truth of the relationship between people engaged on the path to understanding. The Prague University testifies to the fact that, after seven centuries, tolerance, pluralism and the primacy of reason and intellectual freedom are the best technologies of a European university," At the end of the ceremony the President of Rumania, acting on a decision of the Academic Senate of Bucharest University, presented the CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly with a commemorative medal celebrating the three-hundredth anniversary of that university.
The motto "Alt for Norge" (All for Norway) guides the actions of the present King of Norway, Harald V, just as it the policies of his grandfather, King Haakon VII and his father Olav V. King Harald claims that his chief task is "...to hold the nation together and to act as a kind of cement..." In mid-March this year, he and his consort Queen Sonja visited the Czech Republic. The royal couple's three-day programme was hectic, but included a visit to Charles University, where the King was awarded a Charles University Commemorative Medal for his "contributions to the development of co-operation and understanding between nations." The ceremony took place in the afternoon of the 19th of March 1997 in the Patriotic Hall of the historic Carolinum. The CU Pro-Rector Prof. MUDr. Pavel Klener, DrSc. welcomed the King and Queen as well as distinguished guests including representatives of the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, members of the Czech Parliament, representatives of the Council of Scientific Societies and the Czech Academy of Sciences, and the Norwegian ambassador Mrs. Mette Kongshem. He then gave an address that described important events in the life of the Norwegian King, who has had a major personal and political influence on the development of the monarchy as an institution. He also expressed appreciation for the generosity with which Norway has been supporting the development of teaching and research in the Czech Republic, by offering scholarships, grants and opportunities for Czechs in a variety of fields to study and undertake research at Norwegian universities and institutes. The CU Rector Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly, DrSc. then told the gathering that the award of a medal to the Norwegian King Harald V, "...is not only a potential stimulus to the the deepening of co-operation between our peoples, but also an expression of thanks for the understanding that we have always found, in great abundance, on the part of Norway." The Rector then presented the king with the medal, imprinted with the original Charles University seal. His Highness responded in a short speech: "I come from a country which sets a high value on education, the sciences and research, but I cannot pass over the fact that the academic history of Norway is relatively modest, Our first university came into existence in 1811. Charles University in Prague was founded almost half a millenium earlier. It is well known that Norwegian students were among those who journeyed here, to this centre of knowledge and culture, as early as the Middle Ages. Today, encountering this seat of learning, which at that time was wholly exceptional in central Europe, and which now nears it 650th anniversary, I am naturally filled with wonder and admiration. For this reason I am especially happy to have the privilege of accepting a Charles University Commemorative Medal." His words were greeted with applause from the packed auditorium. At the end of his visit to Charles University, His Highness King Harald V met teachers and students from the Department of German, Dutch and Scandinavian Studies at the CU Philosophical Faculty. During the meeting, which was held in the Small Aula, the king expressed interest in whether students had visited Norway, why they had chosen this particular branch of study, which works of Norwegian literature they knew, and which professions they hoped to follow after graduation.
"The lecture series "Conversations on Neighbourliness," jointly organised by Charles University and the Bertelsmann Club, arose from an idea and a wish: the idea that the time had come to address Czechs and Germans, and the wish that the leading figures in politics and culture in the Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany should express themselves on the important and urgent question of good neighbourliness between the two countries and the two peoples." These are a few of the introductory words from the first chapter of the impressive publication entitled "Conversations on Neighbourliness" which was introduced by Charles University Rector, Prof. Karel Maly, at a celebratory meeting in the Patriotic Hall of the Carolinum on Friday the 11th of April 1997. There was, however, another reason for the meeting, and this was the award of a Charles University Commemorative Medal to the Vice-Chairman of the German Federal Parliament, Dr. Antje Vollmer, for outstanding contributions to the development of international co-operation. The laudatory address, given by the Dean of the CU Law Faculty, Prof. Dusan Hendrych, described Dr.Antje Vollmer as one of the German political figures best known to Czechs. She has been Vice-Chairman of the German Federal Parliament for two years, and prior to this was active there as a deputy. She has behind her, however, a career that is not typical for politicians: as a Protestant theologian she was active in academic and practical life, and also devoted herself to journalism and literary activity. The titles and themes of her written works are related to questions of civic courage, reason and peace, and they reflect her unwavering defence of human rights, consistent appeal for tolerance, and deep interest in the young and their problems. Dr. Vollmer first came to the Czech public eye after February 1995, when President Vaclav Havel re-opened the question of Czech-German relations and Dr. Vollmer started a dialogue with the Czech people. In March 1995 Antje Vollmer was the main figure in the German Federal Parliament to demand a truthful and fair settlement of issues arising from the unhappy events in the common history of both our nations, and to appeal for a new epoch of peaceful neighbourly relations. Insults and outrages failed to deter her. Half a year later, in the Carolinum, she gave a lecture entitled "The End of Ambiguities", demanding that the unanswered questions be answered truthfully and openly. Personally, she mobilized all her remarkable perseverance and energy to make sure that the fundamental document was signed, and later, at the beginning of this year, passed by the parliaments of both states.
Charles University has an historical tradition of honouring those who have served education and the good of humanity in some outstanding way. On the 16th of April 1997, this tradition was continued at a ceremonial meeting of the university's Research Broad, when an honorary Doctorate in Legal Sciences was awarded to Simon Wiesenthal. The honorary doctorate was awarded to Simon Wiesenthal, Head of the Jewish Documentation Centre based in Vienna, for his lifelong endeavours for justice and the punishment of evil, and his important contribution to the humanization of the world. His experiences of imprisonment in various concentration camps led Simon Wiesenthal to the foundation of the Jewish Documentation Centre, based first in Linz and then in Vienna, and to make this organisation the centre of his lifelong mission to search out war criminals. In his introductory address, Professor Dusan Hendrych, Dean of the CU Law Faculty, characterized Simon Wiesenthal as a man who did not believe in collective guilt.
Wiesenthal's literary activities have also been significant. In addition to a large number of articles, he has also written about fifteen books, of which many have been translated into several languages (including Czech) and published in different parts of the world.
Simon Wiesenthal made a speech in which he expressed his thanks to Charles University for the honorary doctorate, and mentioned that the four years he spent in Prague studying architecture at the Technical University (1929-1932) had been among the happiest in his life. He also recalled with pleasure the year 1995, when he visited Prague for several days at the invitation of Vaclav Havel, the President of the Republic. He emphasised that his work was above all a struggle against forgetting, and warned the "murderers of tomorrow." They should be aware, he said, that their crimes could earn them the same retribution as the criminals of the Nazi era. At the end of the meeting of the CU Academic Board Simon Wiesenthal signed the Memorial Book and received a Charles University Gold Memorial Medal.
The Nobel Prize-winner Professor Milton Friedman may be regarded as one of the most important economists of the later 20th Century. There is probably no one else who has had such an impact on so many areas of economics, and he has influenced the thought of economists throughout the world, whether as supporters or as opponents. The Economics University in Prague recently became one of the many institutions to honour Milton Friedmann's life work. On Thursday the 17th of April 1997 it awarded him an honorary doctorate in the Magna Aula of the Carolinum. He was presented with his diploma by the leadership of the Economics University headed by its Rector, Prof. Ing. Jan Seger, CSc. The Czech Prime Minister, Prof. Vaclav Klaus attended the ceremony and gave a short speech.
The 29th of May 1997 saw the award of two Charles University honorary doctorates in the Magna Aula of the historic Carolinum, at a ceremony led by CU Pro-Rectors doc. I. Wilhelm and prof. P. Klener. Prof. Ing. Dr. Ivo Babuska, DrSc. (born 1926), the most famous Czech mathematician of the later 20th century, was the first to receive his honorary doctorate, for outstanding contributions to Numerical and Applied Mathematics. His work has influenced the development of Numerical Mathematics throughout the world. His career has been of great importance for Czech mathematics. Before his departure to the USA he was one of the founders of applied mathematics at the CU Mathematics and Physics Faculty and influenced a series of his pupils. Some of these were to achieve important results and are today contributing to the high level of teaching in mathematics at Charles University. Even after emigration to the USA Professor Babuska did not lose contact with Czech science. In 1994 he used his own financial resources to found a Prize for Young Researchers in the field of Numerical Mathematics and Computer Mechanics.
The second Charles University was awarded to the Dutch mathematician, Prof. Dr. Willem Rutger van Zwet (b. 1934), well-known in the scientific world for his work on probability theory and mathematical statistics, especially non-parametrical. As the Chairman of the European Regional Commission of the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and probability (1969-1980), he was responsible for the establishment of a branch in the former Czechoslovakia and he found various ways of helping Czech scientists to attend European meetings of statisticians. He has maintained a friendly relationship with Charles University, where he has cultivated contacts for more than twenty years.
On the 3rd of June 1997 an honorary doctorate of medical sciences was presented to Prof. Franz Gerstenbrand a native of Hof near Mikulov (b. 1924), and internationally recognised authority in the filed of clinical neurotraumatology, developmental and paediatric neurology. Prof. Gerstenbrand, ptordeesor emeritus of the All-European Neurological Society, was one of the first to devote himself to the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, and to work on applied neurochemistry, the pathophysiology of the brain stem and the limbic system, CNS intoxications. and neuro-infections including tropical and parasitological disorders. His monograph on the apalic syndrome is world famous. This internationally recognised expert, an honorary member of many European and world neurological societies and medical research institutions (he is, for example, Vice-President of the World Federation for Neurosurgery) has made important contributions to Czechoslovak neurosurgery. He has been a co-organizer of twenty-eight Danube Symposia which - thanks to his efforts, neurosurgeons from Central and Eastern Europe had the opportunity to attend. He has worked very closely with the Charles University Professor Ivan Lesny. In 1988 he was the moving force behind the decision to hold the All-European Neurological Congress in Prague, for the first time, and it is thanks to him that this important scientific meeting will once again take place in Prague in 1997.