Eesti Elu
The Seeds of Academe (3) (1)
Arvamus 27 Aug 2010 Elmar TampõldEesti Elu
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(An article requested from Elmar Tampõld on the occasion of Tartu College’s 40th anniversary.)

For the beginning of 1995, I once again reserved personal resources since other loan possibilities for a partially empty building were completely unavailable. Fortunately the financial situation turned overnight, and the income of the next 4 years banished our concerns into distant memory! In November of 1999 we celebrated the 30 anniversary of Tartu College's active operation. At that time we could count among our achievements: the initial indebtness of Tartu College's founding capital had been repaid, a two million dollar programme of upgrading the building was underway, in addition to the 10,000 sq. ft. floor housing the Academic Home, an extra 7,000 sq. ft. rent-free space in the basement for the Tartu College Archives was under construction and the promises and obligations of the Chair's Foundation to the University had been fulfilled: under the contract, the Chair is permanent, worded in the contract as lasting "in perpetuity". As of July 1rst. 1999 Dr. Juri Kivimae was named as the permanent professor of the Chair of Estonian Studies and Dr. Tiina Kirss as lecturer in Estonian and Estonian Literature.

Under the aegis of the Estonian Studies Fund we established the Honorary Consul General Ilmar Heinsoo Scholarship Foundation, valued at $150.000 (donations $50,000, $50,000 provided by the University and $50,000 from the provincial government). The fund was increased in 2005 by Toomas Heinsoo to $200,000 (donation $25,000 and $25,000 by the University).

The placement of both founding capitals over 40 years have resulted in an almost twenty-fold gain: the members of the Academic Home have, beyond the repayment of $125,000 and interest, received, as a bonus, rent free space for over 40 years: a value equivalent to millions of dollars.

My $275,000 founding capital in debentures has been repaid with interest. The bonus of that contribution has been the $2 million (along with the expenses of the lectureship) paid into the trust fund of the Chair of Estonian Studies that has grown as of today into $4 million.

With the passage of time, increasing sums are accruing from the operation of Tartu College. Those are being re-directed into the fostering of Estonian culture and education.

It must be emphasized that the primary value of Tartu College has been the desire and ability to create financial opportunities to enable our academic organizations to continue activity as well as establishing and offering financial possibilities for our cultural and educational activities. At the inaugural commencement assembly of Tartu College I stated with a chuckle that "raha paneb raalid kaima", an inadequate translation of this take-off on a common Estonian saying would be that money makes the world go around. Not only professional experience and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial acumen, which is unfortunately often used in our financial circles for purely personal benefit, but the taking and retaining of personal responsibility and long-term placement of personal capital were decisive in the birth of Tartu College. The entire undertaking was on the borderline of being a high-risk financial venture: the type which has resulted in many failures of similar projects.

Tartu Institute, Lectorate, The Chair of Estonian Studies, The Estonian Studies Library, the "Home" of Estonian Life publication (Eesti Elu) and now - 40 years later - the concept of the Estonian Studies Centre together with "VEMU" The Museum of Estonians Abroad, are off springs of Tartu College, borne from the financial opportunities that I indicated in my initial proposal in 1967. These institutions are indicators of the full totality of our community and place us on an equal level with other nationalities in multicultural Canada. I cannot think of any other institution serving the role that the Chair does in introducing and providing knowledge of Estonia to other Canadians.

From the academic viewpoint, Professor Kivimae's courses in an academic year provide a historical overview of the entire Baltic region. The main emphasis is on Estonian history from the 13th century up to the present day. His seminars, at the graduate level, encompass discussions addressing issues such as national and cultural identity. This type of approach has never been offered from the Baltic perspective. From the Anglo-Saxon perspective, looking eastwards means peering over the Elbe River!

Professor Tiina Kirss' language and literature courses addressed issues and problems involved with being and remaining an Estonian, both in Estonian language instruction and in English.

Pride generated a justified smile up my sleeve, when at the official opening of the Peter Munk Centre for International Studies; the University of Toronto's Program notes boasted that, on top of studies focused on the countries of the European Union, the University has now added study programmes focusing on five countries selected to be EU candidate countries. As well, the University is offering language instruction in Czech, Estonian, Hungarian and Polish. Is this coincidence? I am reminded of the questions of Canadian University students in the 1950's, asking whether Estonia has its own native language.

Financial realities mean that life is in a constant state of flux, presenting new situations. The fulfillment of noble ideals also has an unavoidable price: I knew that the income generated by an organization granted tax exemption would eventually lead to surpluses. This knowledge was the foundation of my original idea to create Tartu College.

I believe that we accomplished far more than we initially dared to hope for.
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