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Owen Johnson
Polish Studies

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2004

IU Polish Studies Center honored at Royal Palace ceremony in Warsaw

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Polish Studies Center and its director, Professor Bill Johnston, received the Polish Foreign Minister Award on Wednesday (Oct. 6) for outstanding contributions to the promotion of Poland abroad. Johnston accepted the award from Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Warsaw.

The award, which has been presented each year since 1970, honors people and institutions that significantly enhance the promotion of Poland in the world.

"This award to the Polish Studies Center and Bill Johnston for promoting knowledge of Poland and things Polish is richly deserved," said Owen V. Johnson, the center's acting director while Johnston is on sabbatical leave. "But the award only tells part of the story. For more than a quarter century, the center, like other area studies centers at IU, has been opening up the rest of the world to IU students and faculty as well as to the people of the state of Indiana."

The IU Polish Studies Center was established in 1976. Since that time it has hosted some of the most important figures in Polish politics and culture, including trade union leader Lech Walesa, who led the movement that helped bring about the downfall of communism, and Czeslaw Milosz, a world-renowned writer. Both men received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The center also has sponsored numerous conferences, concerts and theatrical performances and has been instrumental in establishing IU's academic exchange programs with Warsaw University and with Jagiellonian University in Krakow. These programs have allowed more than 60 IU faculty and graduate students to travel to Poland and an equal number of Polish scholars to come to IU.

Johnston, an associate professor of applied linguistics, has been the center's director since 2001 and is an award-winning translator of Polish literature. He currently is on sabbatical leave.