His work to establish the chair spanned two decades, and the founding of the position in 1997, after Harvard the second fully-funded position in American higher
education, reflected not only his dedication, but the admiration and respect of his academic and social communities.
Born October 5, 1941, in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Clark, NJ, Dr. Blejwas was
well-known for his work in United States and Poland. He was a passionate and humble husband, father, and friend, who took pains to shine a spotlight on others though he walked a grander stage. He was a tireless
academic who worked to promote Polish culture and improve Jewish-Polish relations in post World War II Europe and America.
A 1963 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Providence College, Dr. Blejwas went on to
pursue his Ph.D. in Modern East European and Polish History at Columbia University, where he graduated in 1973. Highlights during his studies include a fellowship at the Institute on East Central Europe, an
Honorary Fellowship at Columbia in 1966, and a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to Poland a year later. Those awards were followed by a Kosciuszko Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Award in 1974, a grant from the
Connecticut Humanities Council, a 1982 NEH fellowship, the Mieczyslaw Haiman Medal of the Polish American Historical Association for contributions to the field, a grant from the Kosciuszko Foundation and the
Polish Ministry of Education for research at the Polish State Archives and the Polish Foreign Ministry Archives, and a distinguished service award from the Polish American Historical Association of which he was
appointed president in 2001.
In June 1994, President Clinton appointed Dr. Blejwas a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Dr. Blejwas served on the Council's Research Committee and
was re-appointed to a second term by President Clinton in 1999. In addition, Dr. Blejwas also garnered enormous respect abroad and was recognized in 1996 by President Aleksander Kwasniewski of the Republic of
Poland who presented him with Officer of Swords of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, the highest state decoration in Poland.
In October 2000, he was again honored by the Polish government
with the presentation of the Foreign Minister's Diploma of Recognition for the promotion of Polish culture abroad by Professor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.
A man with much to be proud of, Dr. Blejwas' greatest pride was found in his marriage to Lucy, his wife of 35 years, and the accomplishments of his children, Andrzej and Carol. As a man steeped in
the study of history, Dr. Blejwas always knew that history is ultimately created in the here and now, in the interactions with our families and our communities. He lived his life and approached his work with
honesty, integrity, and rigor. His legacy will certainly include a record of history, but will also include the shape he gave to the historical moment he found himself in.
(Published in the Hartford Courant on 9/25/2001)
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