The CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship
Texas A&M and the Czechs
Ties between Texas A&M and the Czech-American community of Texas were established early and remain strong today. The origins of the Texas Aggie Band can be traced back to the efforts of a Czech immigrant named Joseph Holick (Holik), who organized a cadet band on the A&M campus in the 1890s. Holick, a local cobbler, was also responsible for designing the famous boots worn by senior cadets. It is estimated that during his long career (he died in 1971 at the age of 103), his boot shop produced more than 30,000 Aggie boots. In 1905, judge Augustin Haidusek of La Grange, the first Czech-American to be elected to a state legislature and editor of the Czech-language newspaper Svoboda, was appointed to the Texas A&M College Board of Directors.
Most importantly, thousands of students with Czech surnames, from Adamek to Zvonek, have attended Texas A&M. In the early years especially, A&M's emphasis on agricultural studies drew students from the many rural communities settled by Czech immigrant groups.
Like Haidusek and Holick, a majority of these Texas Czechs were of Moravian heritage, with ancestral roots in towns and villages such as Frydek-Mistek, Frenstat, and Vsetin-all of which have given their names to rural Texas towns.
For decades, the Iron Curtain stood as a barrier between Texas Czechs and their ancestral land. Since the recent, dramatic political changes in Central Europe new cultural and business ties have been developing between Texas and the Czech Republic--especially Moravia. Taking advantage of this new era of cooperation and mutual interest, CEFT has established the CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship at Texas A&M's College of Liberal Arts. This fellowship program is designed to make these ties even stronger and to benefit the Texas Czech community in many ways.
The Fellowship was made possible in large part by a major grant from the children of the late William J. Hlavinka, a East Bernard businessman and Texas A&M graduate who was active in his support of both A&M and Czech nationality organizations during his lifetime.
The CEFT Czech Fellowship brings advanced graduate students from the two major Moravian universities -- Masaryk University in Brno and Palacky University in Olomouc -- to work toward an M.A. or Ph.D. degree in the Department of English at Texas A&M. In return, these advanced students teach Czech language lessons-open to both A&M students and members of the general public-- and perform other services to the Texas Czech community on a regular basis: translation of Czech letters and documents, consultation and participation in festivals and cultural programs such as genealogical and historical workshops, assistance in preparation of museum exhibitions, etc.
CEFT has designed this program to last forever, our legacy to future generations of Czech Texans and a link to their ancestral homeland. The Fellowship serves to reinforce the leading position of our State in recognizing Czech-Americans as a significant ethnic group in the USA. With its implementation, both of Texas' leading state institutions of higher learning have an important endowed educational program that emphasizes the Czech connection. The A&M program, however, is unique in stressing a Moravian heritage.
Each year, the holder of the CEFT Czech Fellowship receives a stipend from the endowment funds. In addition, the sponsoring Department at Texas A&M provides from its own funds a stipend which supplements the holder's income from the endowment. As an employee of the University, the holder of the Fellowship also receives a "benefits package" which covers all insurance needs and further enhance the value of the Fellowship. The total income generated from these sources is sufficient to attract the brightest scholars from the Moravian Universities.
In return for this generous support, the holder of the Czech Fellowship is expected to work hard in carrying out his duties as a teacher of Czech and interacting with the Czech-American community in Texas.
The Role of the CEFT
In the mid-1980s, a re-energized CEFT set out on its most ambitious project to date. A drive was begun in 1986 to fund an endowed chair at a Texas university. By 1990, $500,000 had been raised, and with matching university funds, the Texas Chair in Czech Studies was established at the University of Texas at Austin with an endowment of $750,000.00. On April 21, 1991, the University formally acknowledged the gift at a celebration with contributors at the LBJ Library. With the Czech Chair firmly established, CEFT continued the drive, and in July, 1993, presented a second gift to the University to fully fund the Chair at $1,000,000. CEFT acknowledged all contributions with plaques or certificates, which were presented in January, 1995, at ceremonies held at Texas A&M University. The current drive for a Czech Fellowship at Texas A&M was announced at those ceremonies.
On October 28, 1998, a commemorative program and dedication ceremony was held at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M, at which time the William J. Hlavinka heirs made their gift presentation and Daniela Kuchrectova, the first Czech Fellow, was introduced.
The University of Texas Chair in Czech Studies
The State of Texas has one of the largest Czech-American populations in the USA. As many as 750,000 Texans trace at least part of their ancestry to the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia, which now make up the Czech Republic. Evidence of this heritage can be seen in annual Texas Czech festivals and celebrations, fraternal organizations, music and cultural programs, Czech- language newspapers, and publications of books about the Czechs in Texas.
Higher education has always been of unparalleled importance to the Czechs, and the Texas Czechs have continued a tradition of its advancement, supporting the teaching of Czech language and culture through the years at both the high school and the college level. The CEFT initially was formed for the purpose of promoting Czech language and culture in Texas through the support of higher education. Early on, CEFT promoted Czech language classes and Czech studies programs, and granted scholarships to students in those programs.
In the mid-1980s, a re-energized CEFT set out on its most ambitious project to date. A drive was begun in 1986 to fund an endowed chair at a Texas university. By 1990, $500,000 had been raised, and with matching university funds, the Texas Chair in Czech Studies was established at the University of Texas at Austin with an endowment of $750,000.00 -- the only one of its kind in the nation. On April 21, 1991, the University formally acknowledged the gift at a celebration with contributors at the LBJ Library. With the Czech Chair firmly established, CEFT continued the drive, and in July, 1993, presented a second gift to the University to fully fund the Chair at $1,000,000. CEFT acknowledged all contributions with plaques or certificates, which were presented in January, 1995, at ceremonies held at Texas A&M University.