18th Anniversary of the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas William J. Hlavinka Fellowship at Texas A&M University’s College of Liberal Arts
Written By: Dr. Clinton Machann CEFT Chairman and Director and Lynette Urbanovsky CEFT English Publicity Officer and Director
The Czech Educational Foundation of Texas (CEFT) held an 18th anniversary celebration for the William J. Hlavinka Fellowship at Texas A&M University’s College of Liberal Arts at the Texas A&M Recreational Center on Saturday, October 21. The CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship at Texas A&M is unique. It is designed to bring advanced graduate students from two Moravian universities (Masaryk University in Brno, Palacký University in Olomouc) to Texas A&M, establish Czech language classes in the Bryan-College Station area for members of the general public, provide Czech-to-English translation services for the Texas Czech community, provide assistance to Czech-American historical and cultural groups in Texas, and encourage cultural and educational ties between the State of Texas and the Czech Republic. Currently the classes are being organized by the Brazos Valley Chapter of the Czech Heritage Society in Bryan and are held on Mondays at 7:00pm at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bryan Parish Activity Center. The usual procedure for a Czech Fellow is to stay at A&M for two years and earn an MA in English, with an emphasis on American literature (while teaching the local Czech classes) before returning home and pursuing a PhD in English and American studies in the Czech Republic. The current Fellow is Jan Beneš, from Masaryk University. The endowment in the Texas A&M Foundation, funded by members of the Hlavinka family and supplemented through the years by the Hlavinkas and other generous supporters, has made all of this possible.
The celebration began with the posting of the colors by an Honor Guard from the American Legion. An ensemble from the Texas A&M Century Singers sang the American national anthem, as well as “Texas, Our Texas,” “The Spirit of Aggieland” and “The Aggie War Hymn.” Following the Texas A&M Century Singers, CEFT Director Lynette Urbanovsky sang the Czech national anthem, “Kde Domov Můj,” and guest vocalist Michael Morris sang the Slovak national anthem, “Nad Tatrou sa Blýska.” Both were accompanied by Kovanda’s Czech Band, from Houston, Texas. The namesake of the fellowship’s brother, Joe Hlavinka, Jr., welcomed guests and introduced members of the Hlavinka family. The Unity of the Brethren minister and CEFT Director, Dr. Mark Labaj, led the invocation. An elaborate Czech-themed meal was prepared and served by the local restaurant Veritas Wine and Bistro. During the meal, the crowd was entertained with accordion music and singing by Henry Machichek of the Praha Brothers Band and his wife Susan Machichek. Both were dressed in traditional Czech kroje (costumes). Following the meal, the Honorary Counsul to the Czech Republic and CEFT Director Brian Vanicek spoke about upcoming Czech events, thanked the late Ben Trcalek, Jr. (former CEFT director and another large contributor to the Fellowship) family that was present, and introduced Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System.
The CEFT was honored to have Chancellor Sharp as its keynote speaker. Chancellor Sharp gave an inspiring talk, emphasizing the importance of the Fellowship, and spoke about his own Czech ancestral roots. Following Chancellor Sharp, Professor Emeritus and former Head of the Department of English at Texas A&M University, Dr. J. Lawrence Mitchell discussed his experiences working with the CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship. The CEFT was also proud to have former Fellow, Hana Waisserová, currently a Lecturer of Czech Studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and current Fellow Jan Beneš speak of their firsthand experiences in the Department of English at Texas A&M. Following the Fellows’ presentations, a very special guest, Miss Reveille IX, made an appearance at the celebration. Following Miss Reveille, special appearances were also made by Sara (Middlebrook) Armor, the 2006 Miss Czech-Slovak USA Queen, and Jana (Vaculik) Riley, the 2001 Miss Texas-Czech Slovak Queen Independent Representative. Both ladies came dressed in traditional Czech kroje costumes and discussed their experiences.
A concluding presentation was made by CEFT Director Paul Hlavinka. The oldest son of William J. Hlavinka, Paul thanked the attendees and encouraged them to contribute to a continuation of the CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship. The event closed with music by Kovanda’s Czech Band of Houston, with guest vocalist Michael Morris. The event was emceed by CEFT Director Dr. Woody Smith. For more information about the fellowship, please go to our website page, https://www.ceft.us/ceft-tamu/.