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Spring 2004



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Amesbury Gift Propels Polish Studies

Cecile and Dudley Amesbury
Cecile and Dudley Amesbury are shown here, around 1941, in their engagement photo.
FROM CELEBRATIONS OF PATRIOT SOLDIERS Kosciuszko and Pulaski and concerts of Chopin’s great works, from authentic kielbasa handcrafted in Chicopee to radio programs featuring Polish-language sermons and polkas, the Polish presence has long been strongly felt in western Massachusetts. And since 1971, when noted Slavic studies professor Robert Rothstein began teaching Polish at UMass Amherst, the campus has been a center for scholarly examination of this major European culture.

The Amesbury Endowment—one of the largest gifts ever to the College of Humanities and Fine Arts—ensures a permanency for Polish studies at the university. “We will be able to broaden the range of Polish-related activities in both cultural and educational areas,” says Rothstein.

In many ways this is an extraordinary gift, or nadzwyczajny dar, in Polish. Walter Raleigh Amesbury Jr., a retired economist from Philadelphia (and a man of letters in keeping with his 16th-century English explorer ancestor), wanted to honor his late wife, Cecile Dudley Amesbury. She was a proud Pole with royal lineage of her own, a descendant of a Krakow princess. Amesbury wished to further the study of Polish language and culture in Cecile’s name.

A fitting opportunity arose through a serendipitous rekindling of friendship. When Jane Trigere was a young girl, her parents were friends with the Amesburys. Many years later, Cecile phoned the South Deerfield resident to renew the ties. Trigere and Walter Amesbury stayed in touch after Cecile’s passing. After Walter died, it was Trigere who suggested consideration of the UMass Amherst program, “where a gift would make a real difference,” says Jane Goldberg, Amesbury’s niece, who has been responsible for establishing the endowment in her aunt’s and uncle’s names.

Amesbury’s gift strengthens the already vibrant connections between the region, the campus and Polish studies. UMass Amherst has hosted Polish-related programs over the years, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Library has significant holdings of books, periodicals, and special collections related to Poland and the Polish-American community. There are no other Polish-language programs in the Five Colleges area, just one other in the entire state, so Rothstein’s courses attract students from beyond the UMass Amherst community. In this way, the Amesbury’s gift will have a wide reach.

“We will be able to broaden the range of Polish-related activities in both cultural and educational areas.” —Robert Rothstein, Professor, Slavic studies

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