On 1 April Vilnius University (VU) will celebrate its 442nd anniversary. This year, like last year, one of Europe’s oldest universities will celebrate its birthday differently than usual due to the threat of coronavirus. It will offer virtual celebration initiatives to its community and the public.
“In 1570, Vilnius Bishop Valerijonas Protasevičius invited the Jesuits and gave them the so-called Jasinskis House in 1570. On the 1st of April 1579, it received the privilege of Stephen Bathory and from a collegium became Vilnius University,” the Rector said of the founding of Vilnius University.
The Rector also spoke about the outstanding role of beauty and aesthetics at the university and the famous courtyards of the university with their unique stories. According to Prof. Petrauskas, traditional European universities specifically stand out with their own spaces, impressive classrooms and buildings, which provide the opportunity to work and study in places that offer a connection between history and modern solutions.
Extraordinary spaces are just one of many unique characteristics of VU. Throughout its existence, VU has reflected the most important stages in the history of Vilnius and Lithuania, its rectors attested to its transnational nature, and its traditions and operating principles showed its significance to the decisions of the public and the government.
One of the most beautiful halls of VU library will open virtually
The university library, which usually displays the first book published in 1547 in the Lithuanian language, The Simple Words of the Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas, on the birthday of the university continues the tradition this year. This year, all those who want to see Mažvydas’s book and another equally important document for the history of the Lithuanian printed word – the first book in Lithuanian published in 1595 in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Catechism by Diego de Ledesma (Jacobus Ledisma) translated from Polish by Mikalojus Daukša, will be able to do so virtually.
On the occasion of the birthday of the first higher school in Lithuania, one of the most beautiful halls of VU library will also be opened virtually. By joining the virtual tour you will be able to visit the hall named after Joachim Lelewel. Impressive murals tell the stories of many of the hall’s interesting past events. If you visit the hall, you will be captivated by the stories about the Jesuits who prayed there centuries ago, about the former drawing studio, a discovered fresco or even a bullet hole left in a bookcase.
Students who were expelled from the university during the years of occupation will be honoured
For the fifth year, VU has implemented the Recovering Memory initiative based on research which entails awarding symbolic memory diplomas to former students.
This year, Prof. Petrauskas will personally award symbolic memory diplomas in the VU Grand Courtyard to three former VU students: nun Laimutė Antanina Vanagaitė (Sister Lina-Marija), Alfonsas Bujokas and Zigmas Juozas Tamakauskas, whose social origin and lack of loyalty to the regime of the time or belonging to a monastery became the main obstacle to study at Vilnius University.
The goal of the Recovering Memory initiative is to apologize and acknowledge those members of the VU community who, due to the volatile history of Lithuania of the pre-war and post-war period of the 20th century, were expelled from the university and lost the opportunity to complete their studies, continue their research, pedagogical or other activities.
So far, 106 persons have been identified and honoured with symbolic diplomas, including such well-known people as Antanas Terleckas, a dissident and a political and public figure, signatory of the Act of Independence of Lithuania Algirdas Endriukaitis, Professor of the Department of Histology and Embryology Pranciškus Baltrus Šivickis, the first Dean of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics Professor Antanas Žvironas and student Chlounė Meištovskis, whose biography was the initial impetus for the initiative.
Call to make a donation
The VU Endowment Fund, which nurtures the culture of sponsorship, calls for an online donation of a symbolic amount of EUR 4.42 towards an endowment to the university. VU will use the endowment fund to invest in various classes of assets, so even symbolic support is sustainable, its value will be constantly growing and bring benefit to the university.
The Endowment Fund started investing in 2019 and has earned over EUR 170,000 of return on investment since. This has allowed VU to finance its projects. The Endowment Fund, which has been set up at the initiative of VU alumni will be used to offer scholarships to talented students, to attract the best lecturers and researchers, to support top quality research and study programmes that meet global needs, to support internships and training of the most talented students and researchers, and to promote other projects with high added value for the university.
Events for members of the VU community
On the 1st of April, at 14.00, the Cultural Centre invites all members of the VU community to “Stories from VU: Employee Stories”. The event exclusively to VU employees will feature stories told by long-term VU employees – Irena Krivienė, Director of VU Library, Prof. Inesa Šeškauskienė, Dean of VU Faculty of Philology, and Ramunė Žilinskienė, Head of VU Health and Sports Centre.
Members of the VU community are also welcome to the quiz organized by the members of the VU Student Representation – remote orienteering competition in social media. The VU Health and Sports Centre is organizing a challenge to test one’s physical and creative capabilities.