People - 29.12.2011 - 00:00 

In remembrance of Václav Havel

The Czech Republic has said farewell to the deceased former Czech President Václav Havel with a state ceremony on December 23. Reminiscences of the HSG honorary doctor by former President Rolf Dubs.


23 December 2011. Shortly after the turnaround, HSG awarded Václav Havel an honorary degree in governance and public policy. The request came from law school circles and from a group of people who were concerned with human rights. The senate agreed gladly with a unanimous vote. It burdened me as the president, however, that this honor should have been awarded during the Cold War, because then it would have had a much bigger effect and HSG would have showed itself to be more courageous.

Spirit of reconciliation

Havel received the honorary doctorate “for his literary and political work, for the courage with which he stood up for the needy and for his convictions, for his individual accomplishment in the intellectual preparation and practical realization of the peaceful revolution in his home country, for the proclamation of that spirit of reconciliation that alone can truly regenerate life after wars and revolutions, and in place of the nameless women and men of the Prague Spring, the Charter 77 and the 1989 revolution in Czechoslovakia”, as it was said in the laudatory speech.

Reception in Prague Castle

Unfortunately, Havel could not be at the Dies Academicus in 1990 because of time constraints. That is why a small HSG delegation and I delivered the certificate to him in Prague Castle in 1991. Relations were established by Professor Manfred Timmermann, who at the time had just begun to set up a study program in western management designed by HSG in Prague. The reception in the castle was great and it included representatives of the liberation movement of what was then Czechoslovakia. After formally presenting the certificate, including an appreciation of his accomplishments, there was still time for personal, informal conversation. Havel started to smoke and his arguments were very sophisticated, focused and witty. We heard no complaints about the old system but explanations why it was not successful. His arguments implying a great appreciation of the advantages and problems of a democracy were impressive.

A grand person
We traveled back to St.Gallen proudly because we saw what a grand figure Havel was in cultural and political life. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in getting him to St.Gallen for an event later on. Even though we may have awarded the title too late, all of us are still proud to have an honorary doctor like him.

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