News | Press Releases 2018

Annual Gala Honors Dr. Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown and The Ferenc Rákóczi II. Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute

Coalition Renames its Flagship Program to “John N. Lauer Leadership Program”


Washington, DC – On April 25, 2018, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) honored Dr. Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown and The Ferenc Rákóczi II. Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, headed by Dr. Ildiko Orosz, at its 14th annual Gala Dinner.

His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary, was Honorary Chairman of the event, held at the House of Sweden in Washington, DC.

The Coalition welcomed many distinguished guests from the Washington DC area and leaders from across the Hungarian American community.

The program began with President Emeritus Max Teleki announcing that the Coalition Internship Program has been renamed the “John. N. Lauer Leadership Program.” Mr. Lauer, who passed away recently, was a longtime, generous supporter of the Coalition and educational scholarships, as well as a role model and advisor to many. The Board voted unanimously for this change, said Mr. Teleki, to express the gratitude, admiration and love of the Hungarian American community. “He touched the lives of many young people in the US and Europe, who have been inspired by his example and will keep his memory alive.”

Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition President, highlighted the Coalition’s scholarship programs, which benefit from the Gala dinner’s proceeds: “The Coalition Internship Program (supported by The Hungary Initiatives Foundation and The Pannonius Foundation), the Dr. Elemer and Eva Kiss Scholarship Program, and the Bognár Family Hungarian Scholarship, are incredibly important. They enable young Hungarians from Hungary and across the region to spend valuable time in the US, some attending university, others learning about civil service, building professional networks, and gaining experiences that they can immediately draw on once they return home. They have an amazing ripple effect.”

Mrs. Lauer Rice introduced Gala Honoree Dr. Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown, praising her many achievements during an extraordinary professional career in chemistry, and her ongoing contributions to civil society. The laudation states: “Dr. Brown’s decades of outstanding leadership in science, business and community service, and genuine pride in her Hungarian heritage, have strengthened Hungarian American institutions, earning the admiration and gratitude of the Hungarian American community”. A short video on Dr. Brown’s accomplishments was shown.

In accepting the award, Dr. Brown underlined the importance of her Hungarian heritage. “Being Hungarian shaped all my morals, my views, my ambitions and dreams… As you heard, my parents were Hungarian immigrants, neither of them had more than an eighth grade education, but my love of science and curiosity about the world and my love of music were developed in my Hungarian upbringing. My dad taught us to work hard, help others and always do our best. He pointed out: being Hungarian is not enough, but it may help.”

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Award ceremony (from left to right): Dr. Ágnes Virga, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Dr. Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Governor George Pataki

Dr. Ágnes Virga, Chairman of the Coalition, introduced the next Gala honoree, Dr. Ildikó Orosz, Rector of the Ferenc Rákóczi II. Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute. For decades, Dr. Orosz has been a driving force for ensuring Hungarian language education in Transcarpathia.  Unfortunately, she could not attend the Gala in person, because the Ministry of Education in Kiev scheduled an important accreditation meeting on exactly the days of her scheduled trip to Washington. On her behalf, Dr. László Brenzovics, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, accepted the award “for her long-lasting dedication to teaching and inspiring future generation of leaders for the Hungarian minority of Transcarpathia”. The laudation states: “The Hungarian American community salutes Dr. Orosz and the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute for their invaluable contributions to the past, present, and future of Hungarians in Ukraine.”

In his speech, Dr. Brenzovics described the hardships currently faced by the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, where a series of laws – particularly the new Education Law – threaten the language and citizenship rights of national minorities. He touched upon Dr. Orosz’s family history, which mirrors the community’s experience of war, privation, and ethnic discrimination. Dr. Brenzovics thanked the leaders of the Hungarian American Coalition for their activities on behalf of the Hungarian minority: their recent fact-finding visit to Transcarpathia, and for organizing a series of meetings for Dr. Brenzovics this week with U.S. officials in Washington, DC.

“Certain forces in Ukraine are taking steps to undermine and eliminate Hungarian-language education in Transcarpathia, but we cannot let this happen. If our community is to survive, then native-language education is of elemental importance. Right now, Dr. Orosz is with the delegation from Kiev, holding the fort back home, like our historic forebear Ilona Zrínyi at the Castle of Munkacs. And for my part, here I am in Washington, fighting the good fight with the help of the Coalition, because we will never give up.”

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Award ceremony (from left to right): Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Dr. Ágnes Virga, Dr. László Brenzovics, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Governor George Pataki

The evening concluded with toasts delivered by Ambassador János Csák, Ms. Susan Hutchison, Governor George Pataki and Mr. Theodore J. Horvath.

Distinguished Gala guests included:  honoree Dr. Jeanette Gecsy Grasselli Brown, husband Dr. Glenn Brown and family members; Dr. László Brenzovics, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and President of the Hungarian Cultural Association of Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) and Dr. György Kota, Consultant to the Prime Minister’s Office in Hungary; Gala Co-Chairs Mrs. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Coalition and Governor George Pataki; Mr. John Lipsky, former acting Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, Executive Vice President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA); Ambassador János Csák; Ms. Susan Hutchison, former Director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences; Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation and Mr. Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Other prominent guests included: Dr. Joe Foster, Vice President of Marymount University, and his wife Stephanie and Dr. Liane Summerfield, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and her husband Barry; Mrs. Jo Anne Barnhart, Executive Director of the Magyar Foundation, and Congressman Gus Bilirakis representing Florida’s 12th district; Dr. Ariel Cohen, Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS); Dr. Susan Pekarovics and Mr. Attila Beres, and their son Adam Beres, founders of the Ambassadors of the Future; and Mrs. Katalin Kővári and Mr. William A. Carter.

Also in attendance: Coalition board members Mr. Max Teleki, President Emeritus of the Coalition; Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Coalition Vice President Mr. Stefan Fedor and Mrs. Erika Fedor, founders of the American Hungarian Heritage House; Coalition Vice President Csilla Grauzer, Honorary Consul of Hungary in Minnesota and President of the Minnesota Hungarians; Coalition Chairman of the Board Dr. Ágnes Virga, former President of the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts; Mrs. Anne Bader; Mr. Theodore J. Horvath, Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society; Mr. and Mrs. George and Sandy Pogan; Mrs. Enikő Basa Molnár; and Ms. Réka Pigniczky, award-winning documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Memory Project.

Representatives of the Embassy of Hungary were also in attendance, including Ms. Krisztina Osvát, Counselor in charge of outreach to the Hungarian American community; Ms. Dorottya Mártonffy-Nagy, Commercial and Economic Attaché and Mr. Balázs Mártonffy; and Ms. Dóra Zombori, Energy and Political Military Officer. Also present were US foreign service officers who will soon be posted to the US Embassy in Hungary: Mr. Peter D’Amico, Incoming Deputy Economic and Political Counselor and Mrs. Bernadett D’Amico; Mr. Mark Tervakovski, Incoming Political and Economic Counselor; and Mr. James Land, Incoming Public Affairs Officer. 

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