středa 10. října 2007

Inauguration speech

Your magnificence, Rector, honorabiles vice rectors, spectabiles deans and vice deans, cives academici, professors, doctors at scholares, dear guests, relatives and friends.

For me, taking the oath as dean and receiving the insignia from the hand of his magnificence, the rector of Tomáš Bata University, is a great honour and obligation.

A short time ago, the first movement of W.A. Mozart’s Divertimento composed for string quartet, faded away. This was not by accident or on a whim. We understand the violin, accompanied by viola and violoncello, as symbolic homage to Tomáš Baťa, philosopher of industry and business, his renown extending beyond the borders of this city, region and even the continent. It is little known that the man whose name was attached to our alma mater loved violin pieces. At the end of the twenties, he invited the violin virtuoso Jan Kubelík to Zlín and apparently under the influence of this meeting declared:


It was a surprising and allegorical response, particularly in connection with the fact that at this time, his other statement was often quoted: “Not machinery or buildings, but people!” The use of a comparison of Baťa’s heritage with a violin is so unusual, that we have to exclude the incidental nature of the selected simile. The violin is a musical instrument that becomes valuable over time, if, of course, one plays it regularly and cleanly.

With the passage of time, we may pose the question:


It is unwise to call for an ill-considered answer.

Shortly before the festive opening of this building in 1995, the Brno essayist, translator and journalist, Antonín Přidal, gave allegedly his most famous essay called genius loci. It describes the history of a house in Brno, which was originally designed for cultural purposes. Soon after its completion, the house was sold and for seventy long years, it was used for other purposes, until 1990, when culture was restored. Master Přidal reflected on this example outside the power of genius loci – the spirit to the rulers of certain places, which on the one hand is the result of human creativity, but on the other hand, he notes that it is not in the power of humanity to destroy this spirit.

It is impossible to disagree that Zlín is a city with a strong genius loci, which speaks not just to visitors, but also to its own citizens. And it is worth the effort to describe in detail or define this phenomenon. Tomáš Baťa imprinted the genius loci of Zlín.

Please allow me to look back seventy years for just a moment. Not long ago, in Germany, an old newspaper appeared, in which Egon Ervín Kisch (famous as a passionate German-language reporter) when asked about his feelings from a visit to Baťa‘s Zlín, said:


Apparently, this was a copy of Chesterton’s comment about Britain, in which he said that in its ambitions, restraint and an unnecessary inclination toward tradition is avoided.

On the basis of this statement, it would be beneficial to clarify the already submitted question:

Who is playing and what composition is being played today on the violin of Tomáš Bata?

Do nostalgic nocturnes predominate, or would we hear a serious, ambitious, non-traditional opus?

Much has changed since the time of Kisch’s visit to Zlín. There has been no effort and ultimately not even the possibility of countering Kisch’s comment. For a certain time, Baťa‘s violin played out of force of habit and later out of respect. Even in this time of quiet violin tones, functioning and prospering industry began to call loudly for the training of quality professionals. Initially, the “detached worksite” of SVŠT in Bratislava was built and later transferred to VUT in Brno, so that by 1969, the Faculty of Technology had been established. And if we are diligent, even in this complex period, the Baťa motif can be heard on the violin.

The renown and current position of the Faculty of Technology your magnificence is entrusting to me today are the result of many years of honest work and it is worth comparing it to a symphonic orchestra. The Faculty, like an orchestra, needs quality players, excellent soloists, alternating conductors, visionary literary managers... all of whom must also perform regularly and clearly.

But there are a few differences should not be overlooked. Science, development and research work are like never ending premieres; research does not know the feeling or experience of a successful reprise. And finally, at the end of the performance, applause is not part of the daily experience of scientists or researchers.

In Zlín, none of Bata’s violins have ceased playing. They have merely changed locations from where his violins resound. If you would like to hear a traditional nostalgic song, go to the forest cemetery; if you long for an ambitious opus, go to the terrace of Administrative Building 21, walk through the Zlín hospital and accept our invitation to the new buildings of Tomáš Bata University.

Your magnificence, Mister Rector,

I thank you and appreciate your promise to help in the fulfilment of our ideas in the near future. We are fully aware that in today’s globalizing world, it is impossible to concentrate solely local problems, to play a solo part without the support of all the players, or to avoid cooperation. Without a continuous confrontation of our results with the world’s best, there is no future. Science, like music, knows no borders.

Your magnificence, Mister Rector, you well know the players of our faculty and so it is not necessary to assure you that the tones of our violins will be heard more often and stronger. Just allow me to note that not all compositions can be played as quickly as you have asked of us in recent times.

Honorábilis quaestor,

It is not customary to address the quaestor in the inauguration festivities, but in this case, please allow me this small exception. Some of our players need new space or at least some music stands. If you help us improve the conditions for rehearsing for a master performance, I promise I will personally perform Tartini’s devil’s – pardon me – dean’s trill for you.

Academí civitaes, esteemed members of the academic community,

To engage today in the scientific scene requires greater effort, knowledge and teamwork with other players. Please hear the advice of a new dean. Consider the recognition of those recognized and experienced. Rise above praising incompetence, encourage and help each other.

Esteemed public representatives,

I will not ask cheaply for a clear performance. But I would like to say something else to you today. There have been times when a number of good Zlín players did not hesitate to abandon their orchestra and colleagues, but perhaps now we have put this time behind us. Your work and your scale of value now decide and will decide on whether our soloists will be glad to return home after performing abroad.

Therefore, I would add with pleasure that representatives of the church have also accepted invitations to today’s inauguration and please allow me to turn to them briefly:

Padres Petrus at Paulus, orate pro nobis!

And finally, I would like to speak personally to those of you who have come from Boršice. Obviously, it was there that I first heard Bata’s violin. Although early on, this came in the form of a lullaby by my mother and a song by my father on the flugelhorn. I am always happy to be back among you, to draw new strength to face none-too-easy daily problems.

I firmly believe that there, below Buchlov, Bata’s violin will be heard and that its play ambitious tones will attract more novices to play on Bata’s violin.

You, my relatives, and you, the relatives of my closest colleagues, please allow a still greater indulgence. Performing on the entrusted violin will take considerable time.

In conclusion, in the ancient academic tradition, please let me announce the working motto for the next four years:

Verba movent, exempla trahunt. Words encourage, but examples lead.

And for those who like to play forte, something more dramatic:

Dum luceamus, pereamus – Let us die only when we shall shine.

Thank you for your time.

Speech designated for the festive inauguration of the ninth dean of the Faculty of Technology, on October 10, 2007 in the great hall of Tomáš Bata University.

© Petr Hlaváček, translated by Perry Tapper

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