||Schofield Hall 218|
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Dr. Paulis Lazda Earns
Latvian Honorary Doctorate
MAILED: Nov. 8, 1999|
Dr. Paulis Lazda, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of history, has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Latvia in recognition of his work with the university.
Lazda's diploma was one of 11 diplomas awarded Sept. 27 to professors and scientists from Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Italy and Canada.
The ceremony was quite elaborate with the Prime Minister of Latvia in attendance, Lazda said.
"What was really awesome was that the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, also was scheduled to receive the honorary degree but, unfortunately, was not able to attend the ceremony," he said. "I was surprised that I would be among such prominent people. I never expected this kind of honor."
Lazda was recognized partly for his initiative in founding the UW-Eau Claire semester program in Latvia.
"The University of Latvia values our interaction. It means a lot to them, which is apparent in their rewarding Professor Lazda with an honorary doctorate," said Dr. Karl Markgraf, director of international education. "Our presence has been recognized through several external agencies as a significant player in higher education in the Baltic States."
The award came exactly 10 years after Lazda's first contact with the University of Latvia's chancellor, which led to creating the program in Latvia.
"I wanted to start the program for two different reasons," Lazda said. "First of all, I was teaching East European and Russian history (at UW-Eau Claire), and I wanted our students to have the opportunity to experience the changes that were going on in the Baltic.
"The other reason was sentimental. I was born there, and I wanted to contribute to opening the country to the West."
The award also recognizes his "contribution to history" because he founded the 50-Year Occupation of Latvia Museum, which shows the experience of Soviet and Nazi rule in Latvia until 1991.
"When I was teaching history in the UW-Eau Claire program in Latvia, I found there wasn't any museum that I could take the students to to show them this period in Latvia's history," said Lazda.
As the resident director for the program, Lazda ran the program and taught two courses in 1991, 1993 and 1996.
"Instead of suffering in silence, I just took the initiative along with the help of a number of American colleagues who were in Riga at the time to create the museum," said Lazda, who is the chairman of the board of directors of the museum.
Lazda said he also was told he was given the award for his current efforts in planning an international conference on the experience of occupation in the 20th century. The conference will take place in 2001 in Latvia.
Each year, Lazda goes to Latvia four to five times.
"What I simply consider part of my job making a contribution to diversifying and internationalizing the university there they have recognized me for," Lazda said. "And for that reason the honor is a pleasant surprise."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Nov. 8, 1999