High-Level Czech Delegation to Visit Pitt on Oct. 18

Issue Date: 
October 14, 2013

A high-level delegation from the Czech Republic will visit the University of Pittsburgh on Oct. 18 as part of an anniversary celebration of the 1918 Pittsburgh Agreement, which created an independent Czechoslovak nation.

Among the distinguished guests will be Milan Stech, the Czech Senate president; H.E. Petr Gandalovič, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States; Václav Homolka, a member of the Czech Parliament, and 12 representatives of the Czech Chamber of Commerce.

E. Maxine Bruhns, director of Pitt’s Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, will host the 19-member delegation as it visits the Czechoslovak Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning. The Room—one of Pitt’s 29 Nationality Rooms—was dedicated in 1939 and represents the work of the city’s Czech and Slovak communities. A private luncheon will follow, hosted by William Valenta, assistant dean of Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. After lunch, the delegation will have a 30-minute Skype discussion with Ivana Goossen, director of Katz’s Executive MBA Program, based in Prague.

The delegation will also celebrate the 95th anniversary of the signing of the Pittsburgh Agreement, which was created in 1918 when Americans of Czech and Slovak origin publicly announced their support for the creation of an independent Czechoslovak nation to be carved from the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire. The merger was led by Tomáš Masaryk, a professor, philosopher, and politician who was of both Slovak and Czech descent. Masaryk spoke during and presided over an enormous rally of about 20,000 Slovak- and Czech-Americans who descended upon Downtown Pittsburgh on May 30, 1918 to celebrate the completed agreement and their independence. The accord was based on President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, which were defined in a 1918 speech that Wilson delivered to Congress and which became the basis for World War I peace negotiations. Masaryk, who met with President Wilson to finalize the agreement, was elected Czechoslovakia’s first president in October 1918.

The delegation will make several stops in Pittsburgh during its five-day visit, including a walking tour of the Sen. John Heinz History Center and its permanent exhibit featuring the historic Pittsburgh Agreement, and a roundtable breakfast discussion with members of Allegheny County’s business community held at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development headquarters, Downtown.

A memorial to the Pittsburgh Agreement was unveiled in 1989 in the CNG Tower Downtown, which sits on the site of the former Royal Order of Moose Hall where the agreement had been signed. The memorial project was spearheaded by Maryann Sivak, then secretary of the Czechoslovak Nationality Room and now assistant to Bruhns, and University of Pittsburgh Emeritus Professor of Sociology Zdenek Suda.