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. In light of, and supported by such tradition, a farsighted group ofCzech Texans in 1954 founded the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas (CEFT).
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 -- 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. The current drive for a Czech Fellowship at Texas A&M was announced at those ceremonies.
In its most recent fundraising effort, the CEFT established the CEFT William J. Hlavinka Fellowship at Texas A&M's College of Liberal Arts. The Fellowship was made possible in large part by a major grant from the children of the late William J. Hlavinka, an 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.
Membership in CEFT is open to all persons who share the organization's goals, and directors are selected from the membership. As an independent, non-profit corporation, CEFT has no ties to any religious, fraternal, or other organization, though many of its, directors and members are active in those groups as well.
The Czech Educational Foundation of Texas is a non-profit corporation with tax-exempt granted by the Internal Revenue Code (Charter No. 122175-1).