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Masaryk University named auditorium after Karel Engliš

This week, Masaryk University celebrates the 104th anniversary of its foundation. On 24 January, it renamed a university hall at the Faculty of Law to bear the name of Karel Engliš, the first MU rector and one of the most respected personalities of his time.

František Plhoň, grandson of Karel English, with MU Rector Martin Bareš

Formerly known as the Great Auditorium, the hall will now be called Karel Engliš Auditorium – the most representative ceremonial premises at Masaryk University where the most important academic events are held. Karel Engliš was not only the co-author and co-sponsor of the parliamentary bill establishing the “second Czech university”, but later also became its first rector. In cooperation with the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš G. Masaryk, he managed to procure the essential university insignia – the Rector’s chain.

“It is important to stay in touch with the legacy of these great people, their ideas and their work. It is said that if a nation does not pay respects to its heroes, it will find none when the need arises. I am sincerely happy that beginning with today, this university will not only be Masaryk’s, but also Engliš’s,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University, at the beginning of the ceremony.

MU Rector Martin Bareš

Martin Škop, Dean of the Faculty of Law, then took the floor and recalled the legacy of the first rector of Masaryk University. “Karel Engliš, as Minister of Finance, made a significant contribution to the establishment of Masaryk University and was also instrumental in creating this auditorium, which was originally intended to serve as a lecture hall and only later changed its purpose,” Škop reminded.

Martin Škop, Dean of the Faculty of Law

The story of Karel Engliš’s life would make for a good feature film. He was appointed finance minister six times and to this day remains the only Czech to have led both of the country’s two largest universities. He also served as governor of the National Bank of Czechoslovakia, but he was forcibly retired by the communist regime after the 1948 coup and moved out of Prague. The books written by this prominent national economist, lawyer, philosopher, statesman, politician and professor were withdrawn from public libraries and Engliš was forced to live under constant surveillance by the communist secret police. Facing regular home searches in a small house in his native Hrabyně, he was deprived of his entitlement to food stamps and the communist regime went so far as to completely stop paying his pension for a time.

“My grandfather suffered many hardships for his scholarly and political opinions, yet he never stopped believing that the truth would eventually prevail. Opava and Prague have their Engliš streets and his native town of Hrabyně named a school after him. I know that my grandfather always felt at home and welcome in the places that now bear his name. He often lectured at this faculty and I was present when he received an honorary doctorate here in 1947. I appreciate the fact that Masaryk University upholds his legacy in this way,” said František Plhoň, grandson of Karel Engliš. During the ceremony, he received the Masaryk University Bronze Medal for his long-standing activities and efforts in commemorating Karel Engliš’s legacy.

František Plhoň, grandson of Karel English, with MU Rector Martin Bareš

Jiří Blažek, a founding member of the Friends of Karel Engliš association, author of numerous articles and publications and organiser of several conferences and exhibitions dedicated to the first rector of Masaryk University, received the same award from the current MU Rector Martin Bareš. He is a senior member of the Department of Financial Law and Economics at the Faculty of Law, where Karel Engliš spent a significant part of his professional career.

After the MU Bronze Medals award ceremony, the Memoirs of Karel Engliš with the subtitle “Expect no reward you who serve the country” was officially launched. The publication includes Engliš’s previously unreleased manuscripts that he managed to hide from confiscation and destruction and texts and memories recorded by Engliš himself over a period of almost forty years. “This is not a traditional biography, which makes this book quite distinctive and unique. It gives us a glimpse of the topics Engliš was interested in and things that he felt compelled to comment on or record,” said Alena Mizerová, director of Masaryk University Press.

The Memoirs of Karel Engliš were ceremonially launched by MU Rector Martin Bareš, director of Masaryk University Press Alena Mizerová and Engliš’s great-grandson Vít Pokorný.

The memoirs are characterised by the qualities so typical of Karel Engliš: directness and truthfulness. “I speak my mind truthfully, no matter whose wrath I incur. I have done so for 80 years.” The subtitle “Expect no reward you who serve the country” summarises Engliš’s life and professional career. The author of 224 works, many of which have been translated into German, French, English, Hungarian, Romanian and Spanish, states the following in the final parts of the book: “I want to live with the thought in my mind whether I have left behind ideas useful to science and practice. History and a more unprejudiced time will be the judge of that.”

The Rector Martin Bareš then accepted a gift from the family of Karel Engliš through Vít Pokorný –⁠ an original photograph of the first MU Rector from 1933.

After the ceremony, guests moved into the foyer of the Faculty of Law where the new name of the auditorium was unveiled. “It is my honour to announce that from now on, this auditorium will bear the name of our first rector, Karel Engliš,” proclaimed Mr Bareš.

The great hall of the MU Faculty of Law is now officially called Karel Engliš Auditorium.