Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research

Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl

At the General Assembly meeting in Bratislava, convoked on the occasion of the 19th World Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) on July 7, 1998, results were announced of the recent elections of the Society's officers for the 1998-2000 period. Miloslav Rechcigl, who was the Society's President for the last four years, remains at the helm of the Society for the next two years. This is actually his fifth term, the longest time held by any SVU President, having also served in 1974-1978 period.

Dr. Rechcigl has been involved in the Society's affairs since the earliest days, as the closest collaborator of Dr. Jaroslav Nemec who gave the impetus for establishing the Society, initially known under the name Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences in America. Mila Rechcigl, as he likes to be called, was initiated into the work of the Society in 1959 when he was elected Secretary of the newly then founded Washington, D.C. Chapter, under the Presidency of Dr. Ladislav K. Feierabend. From his close association with Dr. Jaroslav Nemec, the First Secretary General of the Society, was borne the idea of organizing the first Society's Congress, convened in Washington, D.C. in 1962. In spite of his young age, Rechcigl was put in charge of preparing the congress program, under the guidance of Professors Vaclav Hlavaty, Rene Wellek, and Vratislav Busek. As it turned out, this arrangement was only a formality because the three-member Advisory Board had full confidence in young Rechcigl and let him essentially "run the whole show." The Congress was a resounding success. Having realized the historical importance of the event, Rechcigl took it upon himself to edit the papers presented at the congress and prepare them for publication. It was also he who arranged their publication with the leading publishing house in the Netherlands, Mouton & Co., under the title The Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture (1964), at no cost to the Society.The successful story repeated itself two years later when Rechcigl organized the Second SVU Congress, this time at Columbia University in New York. The result of this eminently successful congress was two voluminous books, entitled Czechoslovakia Past and Present (1968), published again by Mouton and Co., under Rechcigl's editorship. His keen interest and natural knack for publications led the Society to entrust him with its entire publication program which led to his election to a newly created post of Vice President for Publications. During his tenure the Society published a series of important titles, most of which were published by various University presses at their own expense.

In 1974, when the SVU came into financial straits, the Society turned to Rechcigl for help, electing him the youngest SVU President ever. He was then barely thirty-four years old. Through careful planning and sound management, he was able to turn things around, and succeeded in saving the Society from bankruptcy and changing it into a viable and prosperous organization. During his presidency the Society convened in 1976 one of its most successful congresses, commemorating the U.S. Bicentennial year. Rechcigl was easily reelected to a second two-year term, following which he decided to withdraw from the SVU administrative responsibilities in order that he could devote his attention to his long-term interest in history of Czechs and Slovaks abroad.

Following the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Rechcigl came on an active scene and played a leading role in the newly established SVU Commission for Cooperation with Czechoslovakia. He also made the initial contact with the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and the Council of the Learned Societies. Jointly with Prof. Zdenek Slouka, the Executive Director of the then newly activated SVU Research Institute, he conducted a series of successful workshops at Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences on management of research and the art of "grantsmanship," with the participation of leading scientists from the Czechlands and Slovakia.

The Society turned to Rechcigl's leadership again in 1994, at the time when general apathy set among the members, partly because of the general feeling that the Society has done its job and that time has come to cease and desist, and partly because of the disenchantment with the political situation in Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech and the Slovak Republics. As a new president, Rechcigl together with his newly Elected Executive Board, felt that it will take years before the two countries rebound and reach the status the Czechs and Slovaks enjoyed at the height of the first Czechoslovak Republic, and concluded that the Society can still play a significant role in helping intelligentsia and other professionals, particularly young people, in both countries. Under his leadership the Executive Board exerted a great effort into revamping the Society's finances and putting them on solid ground, and on restoring confidence among the membership, as a whole. In the last four years the Society was revitalized, its membership rolls increased and several new chapters organized. The SVU English periodical Kosmas resumed its publication and two extraordinary conferences and two pivotal SVU world congresses were held. There is every expectation that the Society's successful path will continue as it approaches a new millennium.

Persons interested in joining the Society, or learning more about its activities can read more about the SVU and its work.

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