On April 5, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York hosted a reception for the friends and associates of the Austrian-American Fulbright program in its signature venue on 11 East 5nd Street in Manhattan to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Fulbright exchanges that began in the 1951-52 academic year and to acknowledge the generous support of the Craig and Kathryn Hall Foundation for the Fulbright-Hall Distinguished Chair for Entrepreneurship in Central Europe. Kathryn Walt Hall, a maker of fine wines, served as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 until 2001. Craig Hall, a Dallas-based investor, entrepreneur, and author, also served on the Fulbright Austria board.
Dr. Christine Moser, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York and a Fulbright alumna herself (Smith, American Studies, 1987-88), welcomed guests and reflected on the origins of the Austrian Cultural Forum. She looked back on its relationship to the Austrian émigré community that had fled to New York to escape Nazism, and the achievements of its founding father, Wilhelm Schlag, who was the inaugural executive secretary of the Fulbright Commission in Vienna in 1950 before moving to New York to establish the Austrian Cultural Institute, as it was then called, in 1955.
Dr. Lonnie Johnson, executive director of Fulbright Austria, provided a thumbnail sketch of the history of the Austrian-American Fulbright Program that focused on the program’s unique architecture: binational Fulbright agreements between partner governments to establish binational commissions responsible for the promotion of reciprocal bilateral educational and cultural exchange. He underlined the great extent to which the auspicious development of the Austrian-American Fulbright program in the past two decades has been based on the establishment of a wide range of public and private partnerships with institutions in Austria and the United States: colleges and universities, research centers, museums, and private foundations.
In this context, he outlined how the interests of Kathryn and Craig Hall in Austrian-American relations, public diplomacy, entrepreneurship, economic reform in Eastern Europe, and philanthropy coalesced in the idea of the Fulbright-Hall Distinguished Chair for Entrepreneurship in Central Europe in 2001; how this Fulbright Distinguished Chair “floated” among five different Fulbright Commissions in Central Europe between 2004 and 2009; and why it has been successfully anchored at the WU Vienna since 2010. He underlined the exceptional generosity of the Halls, who have pledged over $750,000 over a fourteen year period to fund it from 2004 through 2018. (For the full text of his remarks, click here.)
In her remarks, Mary Kirk, Director of the Office for Academic Exchanges in the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State, acknowledged the “vital role” the Fulbright Program has played “in contributing to mutual understand and cooperation between our two societies and has sponsored more than 6,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals.” She acknowledged the importance of the support of Austrian and American institutions of higher education and public-private partnerships, and emphasized the distinction of the support of Ambassador Kathryn Walt-Hall and Craig Hall, who are “among a handful of the most generous individual donors to Fulbright in the history of the program.”
Austrian Consul General Dr. Georg Heindl reflected on the auspicious development of Austrian-American relations since World War II and placed the beginning of the Fulbright Program in the context of the Marshall Plan that helped lay the foundations for Austria’s postwar prosperity. On behalf of the Vice Chancellor and Minster for Science, Research, and Economy Dr. Reinhold Mitterlehner, he presented Ambassador Hall with an Urkunde der Annerkennung (certificate of acknowledgement). Mary Kirk then presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Halls on behalf of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Edeltraud Hannapi-Egger, Rector of the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, reflected on the experience of the most recent Fulbright-Hall Distinguished Chair, Prof. Kenneth Swan from College of William and Mary. She noted that the Hall Chair holders have been “among the best researchers and teachers in their field. The way they think and work and the experiences they share with us inspires our faculty and students to come up with new and different ideas, research, solutions.” She then acknowledged Ambassador and Mr. Hall by awarding them WU Pins of Honor “to thank them for generously supporting the Fulbright Program and WU’s Fulbright Chair for so many years, . . .” The Halls are the first Americans to by distinguished by the WU in this manner.
In closing, Ambassador Walt-Hall, who was accompanied by Brijetta Hall Waller, Executive Director of the Hall Foundation, thanked the Austrian Cultural Forum New York for facilitating such a rewarding event. She acknowledged the representatives of the Austrian government, the U.S. State Department, the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, and the Austrian Fulbright Commission for their contributions they and thanked them for the collaboration and support necessary to facilitate the Fulbright-Hall Distinguished Chair for Entrepreneurship, which the Halls and the Hall Foundation are pleased and honored to support.
The WU has also released a press statement which can be downloaded here.