FSI celebrates 40 years of Austrian collaboration

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair Professor program at the Europe Center of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Dirk Rupnow
Dirk Rupnow is the Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair Professor at the Europe Center.

The program has brought an Austrian scholar to Stanford each year since 1977, including historian DIRK RUPNOW, who is visiting this year from the University of Innsbruck. During the spring quarter, he is teaching “The Holocaust and its Aftermath” for the Department of History. His research interests include 20th-century European history, Holocaust and Jewish studies, cultures and politics of memory and intellectual and migration history.

The professorship program began in 1976 and honored the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. To demonstrate its appreciation for America’s support following World War II, a committee chaired by Chancellor Bruno Kreisky appealed “to the Austrian public to make donations for an Austrian contribution from people to people on the occasion of the American Bicentennial.”

American Star
Sale of an ‘Amerika-Sterne’ —’America star’—in Austria helped create a visiting professorship at Stanford 40 years ago.

The proclamation added, “In the time of misery and despair, the American people helped the Europeans in the most generous way by giving material support, self-confidence and the belief in a better future.”

Austrians were offered the opportunity to purchase “Amerika-Sterne,” which were car stickers that doubled as lottery tickets. Purchasers could win, for instance, trips to the United States or American cars. The stickers, which showed the Bicentennial emblem, helped the committee raise a $1.5 million endowment to support Austrian studies at an American university.

Fifteen American universities competed for the funds, with three finalists ultimately considered: Yale, Minnesota and Stanford. Each had a different plan. Stanford’s proposal would bring an Austrian scholar to the United States each year, with alternating professional backgrounds in the humanities, social sciences and the arts. The committee decided to split the endowment between Stanford and Minnesota, which installed a permanent chair for Austrian Studies within its Center for Austrian Studies.

The first holder of the Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair Professorship was Fritz Fellner, a historian from the University of Salzburg. There have been 37 Austrian chair holders since that time.

Visit The Europe Center’s Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair Professors website for more.