The Nanovic Institute celebrates 30 years of European studies at Notre Dame

Author: Gráinne McEvoy

30th Anniversary Nanovic Institute Crowd
Guests mingle in the Forum of Jenkins Nanovic Halls during the 30th anniversary celebration.

On Friday, November 4, 2022, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies celebrated its 30th anniversary with a reception in the Nanovic Hall Forum attended by the Institute’s students, faculty fellows, staff, advisory board members, and friends. Over cake and refreshments, attendees toasted three decades of programs and initiatives that have brought Europe to Notre Dame and Notre Dame to Europe.

Clemens Sedmak, director of the Nanovic Institute and professor of social ethics, opened the celebration by welcoming attendees and bidding a special welcome to guest of honor and Institute founding benefactor, Robert Nanovic. He also sent special greetings to Elizabeth Nanovic who was unable to attend in person. Sedmak invited guests to take a copy of the Nanovic Institute’s newly-published Year in Review 2021-22. In addition to a review of activities over the last year, this special anniversary edition shares and celebrates the Institute’s history.

Sedmak recognized Dr. Joyce Wegs and Alison Wegs Abner, the wife and daughter of the late Professor Robert Wegs, founding director of the Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic Center for European Studies in 1992-93. Sedmak highlighted the video on display during the reception, recorded by Bob Nanovic and provided by Dr. Wegs, that showed scenes from the cruise on the Danube River in the summer of 1987 during which the idea of a center for European studies at Notre Dame was born.

The celebration continued with toasts from Scott Appleby, dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs, and from representatives of the Nanovic Institute’s Advisory Board, Jane Heiden (chair), Steve Barrett, and Terrence R. Keeley. The Institute’s anniversary coincided with a milestone birthday for Mr. Nanovic. To recognize this double celebration, he was presented with a special gift from the University of Notre Dame: a “scrapbook” of photos, postcards, and other memorabilia collected from students, staff, and members of the Institute’s community. This collaborative retrospective was an expression of the university’s appreciation for Mr. Nanovic’s support for European studies and generosity toward the 2,100-plus students who have received grants from the Institute.

Mr. Nanovic also made a short speech, reflecting on an “unbelievable” thirty years and the origins of the Institute. He recalled how he and his wife Liz had met Professor Wegs in 1987 on the Danube and had said “we’d like to do something for the university but we don’t want to build a big building.” A few years later, a center for European studies began the work of “introducing Notre Dame’s students to Europe and European people to Notre Dame.” The big building, Nanovic Hall, followed in 2017.

The celebration also included two musical interludes. In recognition of the Institute’s work in highlighting the ongoing war in Ukraine and to celebrate Notre Dame’s friendship with the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), a group of visiting students from UCU performed a traditional Ukrainian song, “Mnohaya Lita” (“Многая Літа,” “Many Years” in English). The students were joined in song by Fr. Yury P. Avvakumov, associate professor of theology and Nanovic Institute faculty fellow, and Taras Dobko, senior vice rector of UCU and Nanovic Institute visiting scholar, who explained that Ukrainians sing “Многая Літа” at birthdays, name days, weddings, and other important life events. The celebration closed with a surprise performance of Happy Birthday to Mr. Nanovic by the University of Notre Dame Glee Club, followed by a rousing chorus of the “Notre Dame Victory March.”

The Nanovic Institute thanks all of those who attended the celebration and who have supported the Institute in its work over the last thirty years.