Service for Frank Munk
Michael Munk, Reed ‘56
The day my father died, it occurred to me that he had lived in every year that begins with the number “19” except the first one. There are many consequences of such a long life, and in his memoirs he offers us one of the most perplexing: “I have lived here [in Portland] for over 50 years,” he wrote, “[and] was for many decades so well known and accepted as part of the community… that I could not move about incognito. It has since impressed me rather forcefully,” he continues, “that one can achieve local fame rather quickly and that the fame starts fading almost immediately... now I barely know anybody and few people know me. I am amazed how completely generations change, how young people replace their elders, how the climate alters and how easily the old can be replaced -- in fact how eagerly it is done... I may not be popular anymore,” he concludes, “but I feel at home.”
As was typical of him, my father goes on to immediately correct any impression that he is complaining about his perceived status and displays the wry wit he was capable of as he nudges us with: “I suppose that is one reason why people write memoirs, when people do not listen to us any more.”
Looking at the company here today to honor my father, I might question whether his sense of being forgotten was entirely justified -- but perhaps he was thinking about how alone he had become among his contemporaries. Indeed, here today my mother is one of the few who have survived him.
So in the spirit of remembrance and on behalf of our family I welcome you here to the Reed Chapel -- familiar as the scene of many of his lectures and debates. However, his forty active years of academic life in Portland was shared almost equally with Portland State University, and I suggest that we look at his life as bridging the river that separates these two distinguished but dissimilar institutions, just as his European roots and American achievements reveal some of the disparate strengths that result from mixing those identities.
Reed provided our family with refuge from Nazi occupation of our homeland in 1939, and Portland State offered him a rewarding professional and civic life after his first retirement in 1965. So I think it is especially appropriate that Reed and Portland State have joined together here today in this memorial to my father. We are grateful to each of them, and look forward to future examples of their cooperation in our civic and academic affairs.
Now, a few personal words. Just the other day I learned that another academic political scientist considered that the purpose of a liberal education was, in Woodrow Wilson's words, “to make a person as unlike one's father as possible.”
If that's true, those who knew both of us will instantly understand that I'm a kind of poster child for my education. Even though for the first time in 65 years he's not here to argue the point, I still can't tell you we shared many opinions. But I am proud to say that I was not only his son but also his student. I learned a great deal from him as a teacher.
Still, the most important lesson I carry with me was taught by his example, perhaps best expressed not long ago in his last published article in the local press. In it, he presented a vigorous defense of a past political stand that time had made less popular than it was when he adopted it almost half a century ago. But my father didn't abandon a deeply held belief because it was not in today's political mainstream; instead he proudly argued it to the public, risking -- and taking -- some criticism.
To stand up and argue for your beliefs was the principle teaching he handed down to me and which I have tried to make guide my own life. Perhaps, then, we are more alike than we appeared, and that's why my sense of loss today is mingled with gratitude for his guidance and all the other more private gifts my father gave me.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
I am here to celebrate Frank Munk and his contributions to Reed College. As Carl Stevens, who was both a student as well as a colleague of Frank’s at Reed, will shortly provide you a much fuller account of Frank's Reed career, my comments will be brief. Frank arrived at Reed in 1939, a refugee from the terror that was stalking Europe. Sometimes the tragedy of one area provides an unexpected boost for another.
Frank was part of a general exodus of Central Europe's intellectual and political leaders who fled the horrors of the Nazi onslaught. These intellectuals lifted the quality of American educational institutions immediately. It is hard to imagine the preeminent place American universities and colleges established after the war without the participation of these remarkable individuals.
Frank Munk began his Reed career in 1939 as a lecturer in economics. He left Reed in 1941 and returned again at the end of WWII as a professor of political science, where he remained until retirement from Reed in 1965. He noted about his return that, “I arrived in Portland on September 19, 1946. At 8 o'clock the next morning, I was facing a class of eager and critical students at Reed College. My days of glory were definitely over.”
Frank's interest was always international relations. He took leaves of absence to serve as adviser on intellectual cooperation to Radio Free Europe in 1958-60 and senior research fellow of the Atlantic Institute in Paris in 1961-62. He was also research associate of the Foreign Policy Institute of the University of Pennsylvania from 1962 to 1967. He said, regarding his stint with Radio Free Europe, that, “I have always thought that one major advantage of college teaching was the fact that you did not have to do it all the time, in keeping with my permanent itch to try new adventures.“
In 1996, the Munk-Darling Lecture Fund in International Relations was inaugurated. The Fund was endowed by Reed Trustee Martha Darling ('66) and her family in honor of Frank Munk. The lecture series provides a valuable addition to the curriculum by allowing the political science faculty to bring noted speakers on international relations to Reed. Frank attended the inaugural lecture with speaker Ingvar Carlsson, former Prime Minister of Sweden, and I believe Frank was pleased. The Lecture Fund will be a living part of Frank Munk's legacy to Reed. I am personally grateful that I had the opportunity to know him.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Both President Daniel Bernstine and Provost Michael Reardon regret that they are unable to participate with us this afternoon as we remember the life of a distinguished colleague. Professor Frank Munk is one of many scholars who have enriched the academic communities at both Reed College and Portland State University. But his influence and participation extended far beyond the confines of our two campuses, as he pursued his scholarly and diplomatic interests.
As a young and still wet-behind-the-ears assistant professor in the Foreign Language Department, I had the opportunity to meet Frank and to hear him speak, but I would like the words and thoughts of two others to indicate some of what many of our community thought of him. Dr. Branford Millar, President of Portland State University (actually Portland State College at the time), in a letter to Frank approving his request to continue teaching beyond the age of 65, wrote: “The college is fortunate to be able to continue to avail itself of the distinguished services of one of its mature scholars and teachers.” And Dr. Frederick Peters in a letter about the Central European Studies Center in which Professor Munk had participated said, “It has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with you so closely in the establishment of the Central European Studies Center. Your active and positive support and your willingness to undertake initially difficult tasks has been most appreciated.”
Clearly, Professor Munk was a highly esteemed member of our communities, and it is an honor to welcome you all on behalf of these communities.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
It was my privilege to know Frank Munk as a friend and colleague for the last 28 years of his life. We first met when I came to interview for a position at Portland State University at the end of 1970. We became colleagues and friends a few months later, in the spring of 1971, when I joined the Political Science Department. In the years that followed, I witnessed several aspects of Frank's life.
First, there was Frank the colleague. That first term together, in the spring of 1971, we were both teaching the American Foreign Policy course, and we soon discovered that we were both critical of the American involvement in Vietnam. He invited me to speak on Vietnam to his class. He invited me back, this time to pick apart my presentation. At the end of his comments, he said he could foresee a time when there would be several Communist governments in Southeast Asia fighting against each other. I replied that I could not see that far into the future, but thought to myself that he was a bit cynical. In the late 1970s, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge and China invaded Vietnam, it was clear that what I had taken for cynicism was instead realism And how remarkably prophetic he was!
Both before and after his second retirement, in 1983, Frank often covered my classes during my frequent absences. It was a win-win-win situation. My classes were well covered, the students loved having Frank as a teacher, and Frank very much enjoyed being in the classroom. And, how often at the end of the term when the course evaluations came in, did the students say that the best part of the course were the guest lectures by Dr. Munk!
Then, there was Frank the lunch partner. We both enjoyed good food, lively conversation, long leisurely lunches, and trying out new restaurants, so we had lunch fairly often over the years. The routine changed as the years went by. In the 1970s, we would walk five or ten blocks to a restaurant. In the 1980s, he would come and go by bus. And in the 1990s, one of the young women who would live at his house would drive him to a restaurant and I would drive him home. Though the routine changed, the quality of our time together was always very high.
These lunches offered another aspect of his life: Frank as the city's best-informed man. These lunches were like seminars in European politics. Try as I might, I could never keep up with him. Frank was a voracious reader of current international politics. He would go through The Oregonian and The New York Times during breakfast and then move on to the French and German press. Just when I though I was on top of some issue, he would update and revise my assessment with some news he had heard an hour earlier on his short-wave radio!
Frank spent little time alone writing academic articles. He was happiest when he had a public forum, either a classroom or a lecture in the community. Those of you who heard him speak know that his comments and predictions were often gloomy and sometimes apocalyptic, but they were always provocative and interesting.
When I think of his most endearing qualities, I think of the sharpness of his mind and his never-ending interest in new intellectual endeavors, whether learning a new language or mastering computer technologies in his nineties.
When a friend and colleague lives to the ripe old age of 97, it may seem inappropriate to complain of a life cut short. But when that life burned so brightly, when that intellect was so scintillating, I do complain. However many years we knew each other, however many hours we spent together, they were not enough. As a commentator on national and international affairs in the community, Frank was a rich human treasure. As a friend and colleague, he” was very special in more ways than can be expressed in a few brief words. He was unique and I miss him dearly.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Professor Munk's initial association with Reed College in 1939 was owing to political events and personal circumstances rather than conventional academic labor-market events. The political events were associated with the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Shortly thereafter, Frank Munk was tipped off that he, as past chairman of the Economic Committee of the National Socialist Party, was on a Nazi hit list. He and his wife and two children managed to get out -- but it was a very close call indeed.
They came at the end of that harrowing trip to Portland, in the main owing to their association with then Professor of Chemistry at Reed, Arthur Scott, and his wife Vera, who was Nadia Munk's sister. While still in Prague, Frank Munk had received what he later would characterize as “an indefinite and qualified” invitation to join the Reed faculty. He then did in fact join the Reed faculty with the academic rank of lecturer, a post he held during 1939-41.
It was during this period at Reed that my life and that of Professor Munk intersected for the first time. I was, at that time, a student at Reed College. In retrospect, I now realize that many of us in the student community at Reed failed to derive as much benefit from Professor Munk's presence on the campus as he could have provided, and, I am sure, as he would have been happy to provide.
Let me explain. A justly celebrated feature of liberal arts colleges is their cloister-like ambience. The academy is, owing to this feature, insulated from distracting aspects of the outside world, the better to reflect and study, the better to engage the teaching/learning process. While a valuable feature of the college culture, it can be carried too far. It was only in later years that I came to realize how profoundly insular Reed College, or at least its student culture, was during those eventful years of the late 1930s and early 1940s. We had a passing awareness of, but precious little detailed knowledge about, what was transpiring with the Nazi march to domination of Europe. For many of us, the wakeup call was Pearl Harbor, which prompted us to begin looking around to see what was going on in Europe and elsewhere. Had attention been given to arranging it, Professor Munk could have provided that wake-up call for many of us, much sooner. This was a missed opportunity.
In Professor Munk's 1993 memoir, I discovered, much to my interest, student awareness of just such a missed opportunity at the University of California, Berkeley, where Professor Munk went for the two years following his first departure from Reed. There, I found the following quotation from a 1942 student letter to the editor of the student newspaper. Complaining that the University did not “partake of the wisdom of its own faculty members,” the letter went on: “Mr. Munk, a former official of the Czechoslovakian government, has seen nations trampled beneath the tread of Nazi boots... he is a popular speaker... If he were to speak at a University meeting, this campus would suddenly wake up to the realization that there is a war going on. If a University speech is not possible, why can't we borrow Wheeler Auditorium, put Mr. Munk in it and benefit from the experience of one who has seen history in the making?
Had such a letter appeared in the Reed College student newspaper, The Quest, we might better have partaken of the wisdom of, at that time, our own faculty member, Frank Munk.
I do not intend to rehearse here in any detail Professor Munk's professional history. However, I note briefly a few aspects of that history relevant for understanding what follows here. He left Berkeley to become an international civil servant. For the years 1944-46, he was Director of Training for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). In January 1946, he made what he has described as an emotional return to Prague, as Chief Economic Adviser representing UNRRA. Hitler had been defeated, the Soviet armies, like the U .S. armies, had evacuated. And although the new government was, in Frank Munk's words, an unstable coalition of Communists and democrats, things appeared more or less normal. At this juncture, Frank Munk decided that he wanted to return to Prague for good, where he had attractive academic and economic prospects. As it turned out, prompted by warnings of ominous political events to come, he changed his mind and accepted an invitation to return to Reed as Professor of Political Science, in 1946. Regarding these events, his memoir muses that he must have a guardian angel who saved him for a second time. Had he stayed in Prague, he surmises, he would have been liquidated after the Communist putsch in February 1948.
Some six years after Professor Munk's return to Reed, our lives intersected for the second time when, in 1954, I became a member of the Reed faculty. Professor Munk stayed in his post at Reed until 1965, when he left to become a Professor of Political Science at Portland State College (now University). During those years and beyond, the World Affairs Council of Oregon and its subsidiary, the Portland Committee on International Relations, were, in addition to teaching, a major focus of Frank Munk's energies. He notes in his memoir that: “I must confess I felt personally responsible for the world. I suppose not quite realistically, but I had definite ideas about good and evil, much more so than I have now. In the thirties, it was the battle against fascism and Nazism, especially as it threatened Czechoslovakia and later the whole democratic world. After the war, I was committed to the effort of economic, political and social restoration, and shortly thereafter to the opposition to totalitarian Communism.”
Professor Munk maintained an extensive speaking schedule, addressing these matters not only in Portland and Oregon but also up and down the whole west coast. He was much admired by many including, if, I may be forgiven a personal note, by my wife's father, David Robinson. These men shared many values and concerns. In the 1930s, David Robinson left his law firm in Portland to devote himself (as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League) to the battle against fascism and Nazism. A copy of Frank Munk's book, The Legacy of Nazism (Macmillan, 1943), which I recently consulted in the Reed library, bore the bookplate inscription, “In Memory of David Robinson.” This volume had been a part of David Robinson's personal library, which had been, upon his death, donated to Reed.
Professor Munk remarked in his memoir that: “ ...one major advantage of college teaching was the fact that you did not have to do it all the time” and that much as he liked and enjoyed teaching he “...liked 'doing' even more -- at least at times.” What Professor Munk meant was that one could arrange leaves for other professional activities, which he did with some regularity. I confess to having been of similar mind, taking frequent leaves during my tenure at Reed for other professional assignments. In my view, faculty and student in small colleges like Reed benefit from faculty with this kind of extra-mural orientation -- they help to build some hedge against the tendency to insularity, which is strong in such academic settings.
As he would be the first to agree, Professor Munk's tenure at Reed College was not always smooth sailing. He shared with his colleagues a belief in the importance of academic freedom -- the freedom to teach, to learn, to dispute, to disagree, as he put it. Indeed, his own personal experience with totalitarian political ideologies and governments gave him a sense of urgency about the importance of maintaining these values. At the same time, however, these very experiences made him inclined to see “clear and present danger” to the survival of these values where his colleagues could see none. The 1954 events surrounding the Velde committee hearings and the subsequent dismissal of Professor Stanley Moore from the faculty of Reed College brought these differences into sharp focus. To Professor Munk, affiliation of college or university faculty with the Communist Party was a clear and present danger to the survival of academic freedom, such that dismissal of such a faculty member was an appropriate remedy to protect academic freedom. Virtually none of his Reed colleagues, however, could see clear and present danger with faculty member affiliation with the Communist Party. Indeed, for his colleagues, the dismissal of such a faculty member was itself an egregious assault upon academic freedom.
It is, in my view, to Professor Munk's credit that, although he found himself alone in the strongly hostile environment resulting from these differences, he had the courage to maintain his convictions -- and not simply by asserting them, but by providing reasoned statements in explanation and support of them. He, in this way, made a contribution to the academy's better understanding of one of the more vexed issues of those times. He will be missed.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
present and time past
The Thirty Years War was the real beginning of my relationship with Frank Munk.
As everyone here is aware, Frank put great stock in knowing history. He was no prisoner of history, but used it as a tool for gaining insight into current events and for speculating about future directions. Not all seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds, then or now, are well versed in history, and I suspect Frank's references to European diplomatic history early in Pol. 210 were a bit like a chess instructor's use of an unusual move, designed to test the mettle of his students. So the Thirty Years War came up in some context, probably related to wars beginning for certain reasons, only to change character, transmuting into something entirely different by the end. In high school, I had discovered European history and was somewhat knowledgeable about the Thirty Years War. Perhaps out of innocence, but certainly in the Reed spirit, I plunged in after Frank's opening gambit. The reward was a stimulating discussion probing the interplay of religion, geopolitics, economics and more, not a dusty rendition of this prolonged bout of 17th century European warfare.
For me, an immensely important bond had been forged, the strength of which has grown over the decades since. I also remember the class session on October 22, the day the Cuban Missile Crisis went public. To those grave events Frank brought his characteristic powers of analysis and questioning, challenging us to look to both antecedents and implications.
One of the touchstone words of the 1990s is globalization. But long before the term enjoyed such currency, Frank ran an impressive global network. His enabling technologies included his admirable linguistic ability, his short wave radio, a voracious appetite for newspapers, books and articles, and a network of correspondents around the world. One wonders at what might have transpired if the computer he employed over the last decade had been available years earlier.
Frank was always on top of the latest interpretations of events, always ready to speculate about developments. In October, on our last visit, the Euro, NATO enlargement, China, the Balkans and DC politics all underwent scrutiny. He was amazing.
Frank was continuously engaged in expanding the horizons of others, as well as his own. His early work with the World Affairs Council, his public commentaries and his teaching have been well recognized today. But Frank was always on the lookout for new young talent. In 1991, I brought my then 7-year-old son David to my 25th Reed reunion. We made a pilgrimage to Council Crest so David could meet Frank and vice versa. During the course of a typically lively visit, Frank discovered that David knew a fair bit about languages and geography, the legacy of another great educator and internationalist, David's first grade teacher. There proceeded a demonstration of the big radio with its treasure trove of language broadcasts. As we began our goodbyes, Frank presented David with his first world atlas and a small radio for, as he noted, “learning about the world."
Your legacy, it has been said, consists of the knowledge you have created and the memories you leave behind. By any figuring, Frank's legacy will be an enormously rich and enduring one.
Frank has had a deep influence on my life and his friendship has been wonderfully rewarding. To honor Frank and recognize our very special professor-student lifelong relationship, my husband and I established the Munk-Darling Lectureship at Reed. Former Prime Minister Carlsson of Sweden presented a perfect inaugural lecture in 1996, ranging with breadth and depth over the European and world landscapes. Very fitting! I will look forward to this annual opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary life of this extraordinary man.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
I met Frank for the first time in February 1953. I was seeking advice on restarting my studies, interrupted by the war back in 1939. It was then only six months since I arrived as an immigrant in the United States, where I had neither friends nor relatives. I was working as a lumberjack in a logging camp, trying to learn English at the same time. Frank quickly sized up my situation and from that moment on offered me, as long as I was at Reed, indispensable advice, guidance, and encouragement. This relationship quickly developed into a close, lifelong friendship as well as professional collaboration during the years when both of us were members of the Department of Political Science at Portland State University.At Reed, Frank impressed me not only by his vast store of knowledge of world politics, rooted in a deep understanding of the historical background and geographical situation, but also by his teaching methods. He was well known as a master lecturer, dispensing a condensed analysis of complicated problems in a spellbinding manner. But he was even better, and more himself, in the typically Reed College small classroom where we were sitting around a table discussing the assigned readings. He kept the class under firm control. We had to cover the material at hand. At the same time everybody was free to speak up and whoever seemed to be all too quiet would have a point blank question directed at him, just to check whether his or her silence was rooted in natural shyness or failure to keep up with the readings. Small talk, or off the subject excursions, were quickly cut off. Expression of controversial personal opinion was not discouraged, especially if formulated in terms of a question such as: “Could we not explain the latest Soviet move by such and such facts?” or “Is not the American attitude rooted rather in cultural factors than the objective situation?” Frank would often seize this as an opportunity to go deeper into the matter at hand by exclaiming: “That's a very interesting question!” And for the next five minutes, he would guide our discussion so as to explore all possible answers and points of view. For the student who asked the question it was a real balm for his heart and ego and a great stimulus to read carefully any future assignments searching for “really interesting questions. “ Sometimes such student questions initiated debates that would spill out of the classroom and continue in the coffee shop. We at Reed were learning also from each other.
Although, in the classroom, Frank was rather restrained in expression of his personal opinions, he held very strong views on most subjects and was not bashful in stating them. However, he was never dogmatic and not only tolerant but eager to hear very different opinions. Still at Reed, when writing my thesis on Ukrainian nationalism under his supervision, it was quite clear that he had a low opinion not only of the Ukrainian nationalism but also of Ukrainians in general. We argued also about Stalin, developments in the Soviet Union, and recently we held diametrically opposite views concerning such issues as Bosnia or Kosovo. I confess that some of his views, some solutions he was proposing to international conflicts, were really disturbing to me. I wondered sometimes, how can he? But perhaps he had occasionally similar thoughts about myself. Whatever, we continued to debate, to learn from each other, always very friendly, for we really were good old friends for almost half a century.
I really owe him a lot, as a man and as a teacher, so let me close by saying what we customarily say in Romania at a funeral when burying someone who was close to our heart: “Sati fie tarana usoara” -- Let the earth weigh lightly upon you.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
I have two tasks here today. The first is to talk about Frank Munk's role in the birth and development of the World Affairs Council of Oregon, and the second is to say a few words about my own experiences as his student.
Frank was a founder and certainly the guiding light of the World Affairs Council throughout its forty-nine years of existence. The mission of the Council was and still is an almost perfect reflection of Frank's personal mission: to broaden public understanding of international issues, to enhance education on these issues in the schools, and to serve as a community resource on international affairs.
The World Affairs Council began as a discussion group at Reed that sought to combat the isolationism surrounding World War II. It was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1950. By 1955, it had gained national stature as the originator of the Great Decisions series, developed in cooperation with the Foreign Policy Association of New York.
The Council was Frank's home base, his project, his pulpit. He was President of the organization five times, and usually on the Board of Directors. He was the star of two long-running television programs on international affairs sponsored by the Council that appeared on both commercial and public broadcasting networks. Run by dedicated volunteers for many years, the World Affairs Council now has ten full-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a thriving statewide program. It is the state's leading international affairs organization, and in many ways, it was Frank's legacy.
Frank Munk began to teach at Portland State shortly before I arrived. He was famous, a legend. There were long lines to register for his classes. When I was finally able to enroll, I felt like I'd won a prize. World Politics 320 was not only a great class but it was a transformational experience. Frank was a superb lecturer, and only a little intimidating. He knew everything, of course. Lectures were sprinkled with tag likes like, “When I was in Chicago with President Benes...” He'd experienced every important event in the 20th century, usually from the front lines. It's not often that you can learn international politics from someone who's been there, done that.
I got to know Frank and Nadia much better during the 1967-68 academic year, when I was a student on the study program in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, which Frank directed. It was the first time a group of students had been allowed to study in Yugoslavia. It was an altogether exhilarating year. Frank was in his element and so was I. Imagine the joy, the unrelenting stimulation, of being in Central Europe with Mr. Central Europe himself! Even the famous broken leg, sustained when Frank tripped over luggage in the Zagreb train station, failed to stem the tidal wave of information and opinion: the tireless Professor Munk lectured from his bed.
In the ensuing years, there were wonderful dinners on Mt. Adams Drive, and more talks. Any meeting with Frank always required some homework. Since my husband and I listened to only two international news broadcasts daily, compared with Frank's six or eight, at least four of them in other languages, it was necessary to bone up a bit in order to be a worthy participant. I particularly liked it when Frank would ask John's opinion on some current political issue, and then demolish him with superior logic and better information, usually less than an hour old.
Frank Munk was my favorite teacher in a life full of teachers. I admired him for his knowledge, his clear insights, his strong opinions. Most of all I admired his passionate interest in the workings of the world. He was a remarkable man, and I'll never forget him.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a great honor for me to have the opportunity to share with you my memories of our good friend and longtime member of the Czechoslovak National Council, Frank Munk.
We received the news about his departure with great sadness. But today, I think we should celebrate his rich and fruitful life. We should recall above all his character, which made him such a recognized and respected personality.
Frank was born in Kutna Hora, a historical town in Central Bohemia, in what was then an important part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From his student days, his intellect could not be and was not overlooked. Frank was on the rise. He had many contacts and cooperated with many influential figures on the political and financial scene in Czechoslovakia. If not for the Nazi occupation, he would undoubtedly have become an important political figure himself.
Shortly after the Germans invaded the country, Frank received a warning about the Gestapo’s plans for his imminent arrest. He later called this a peculiar act of destiny. Without hesitation, he escaped with his wife and children and, thus, saved his life.
Nazism was one of the two great evils that Frank recognized. The other was communism. Both are based on dictatorship and oppression. They rob people of the most important elements of life -- freedom and human rights. Frank's democratic and humanistic principles brought him into strong opposition of both -- Nazism and communism.
After the war, when he planned to return to his home in Prague, Frank received warning about the political disaster coming from Stalin. He decided to stay in the USA and took a job as a professor at this college. He called that warning the second peculiar act of destiny that saved him and his family from persecution.
Here on the grounds of this institution of higher learning, Frank demonstrated many times his intellectual qualities. He shared his vast wealth of knowledge with hundreds of students, some of whom are here today. Frank's contribution to the United States was great. But at the same time -- myself being a Czech émigré -- one thought sticks in my mind: What a great loss Czechoslovakia suffered because Frank could not use his enormous capacity and knowledge to help build democracy in his homeland.
Frank spoke eight languages. He told me that once. But he added: “The Czech language is my favorite, and the only language in which I can truly express my deepest feelings.” Many immigrants have the same experience. We can be good American citizens, but in our hearts we always remember the place of our birth and childhood.
As an American citizen, Frank was always ready to help. He had a television program, informing and educating Oregonians; he was a founder of the World Affairs Council, and the author of many publications. And as a Czech émigré, he did not miss any opportunity to support the struggle against the communist regime in his native country. He worked for Radio Free Europe, and he was an active member of the Czechoslovak National Council.
I knew Franta (that is the Czech nickname he liked to be called) for about twenty years. We had many interesting discussions, and I was always pleased to find that his views and mine were very close, if not identical, on important issues. That is one of the things that make a friendship strong. We exchanged many interesting e-mails. Computers and the Internet were his hobby in recent years.
Once he disputed some technical term about computer memory. In a few days he called me, saying, “Vlasto, tys mel pravdu!” -- Larry, you were right! Yes, we agreed on many things -- in politics, ideology, science, and religion too. Once we discussed the idea of life after death. We both came up with the thought that a person's death is the final, absolute phase of life. The fiber in the light bulb burns out, and that is the end. Well, if it isn't, I am sure Franta is up there trying to call out: “Vlasto, we were wrong!”
I wish we were. It would be wonderful to meet him someday, when that time comes. He can't send us e-mail about this unresolved dilemma. But I am certain of one thing: He will still be with us, as long as we keep him in our thoughts. As long as we talk about him, as long as we make use of the fruits of his rich life, as long as we keep in touch with his family and friends. That is how Frank and I understood the eternity of the soul.
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Munk family -- for me, the soul of my dear friend Franta Munk will live as long as I do. Thank you for listening.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Several years ago, perhaps more, Dr. Munk, Robert Beebe and soon on Curtis Strong, formed a little luncheon circle which met once a month or every six weeks or whenever the members were so inclined. Later, I was honored to be asked to join the group, and then with the demise of that good man, Robert Beebe, we were gratified to have Jack Radow among us. According to Mrs. Munk our meetings were among Dr. Munk's last pleasures, and it was for that reason that she asked me to say a little about our group, and so I shall.
Now the purpose of this veritable galaxy of brains and wit, meeting in the dining room of the Mallory, was to discuss and solve the problems of the world. Our mentor in this enterprise was Dr. Munk. We valued him for his knowledge and intelligence, for his affability and courtesy, and for his humor.
But there was another reason, too, why we valued him. He was the European presence among us. We Americans do not like to admit it, but we are a profoundly provincial people and provincial for good historical and geographical reasons. All of us are descendants of people who on leaving the old world said, in effect, good riddance.
Then, there are the two oceans. When I was a boy here in Portland, it would have taken me two weeks to reach Europe, two weeks to reach Japan. Isolation is the germ of provincialism. Of course there were our neighbors but what we thought of them is reflected in the fact that only recently have American universities offered courses in Canadian and Mexican history.
Contrast this with a Parisian boy in the 1930s and early 40s. Within a few hours, not a few weeks, he could reach London or Berlin, Vienna or Rome, Madrid or Prague, capitals and their nations and their peoples, all so different from the French. In short, the Europeans by virtue of their geography are as cosmopolitan as we are not. After all, we have only been out in the world for about fifty years. Not very long and as we all know --or perhaps as Americans we do not know -- change, real change, takes time.
So, this then was the other reason we so valued Dr. Munk. He saw things in a rather different light from ourselves and it was a light in which we saw things we had not seen before, or at any rate not so clearly. Of course, as it happened all of the Americans of our little group had traveled extensively, but speaking only for myself I remember the dictum of Mark Twain. Travel is often broadening but seldom is it deepening.
Anyway, these are some of the reasons we valued Dr. Munk and so deeply miss him now.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Thoughts of My Father, Spoken by Suzanne Munk Ragen
My father and I occasionally discussed what might be on the agenda if there was a service of remembrance after his death. His last words on the subject were, “Surprise me.” Now that that time has come, I decided that a few of his own words from his 1994 Memoir would be appropriate. So I quote him. This is my father speaking:
“I have occasionally been nicknamed 'Gloomy Gus', but I do not feel that way. I have just been 'more stricken in years and well seasoned by life' .I am not entirely given to despair; in fact I always hope that things will turn out better than I expect... I recognize that futurology is a risky business. There is always the element of the unpredictable. Nothing progresses linearly and technology always has surprises... I have been for the most part happy and satisfied with my life; it was interesting, creative and always challenging. I was particularly luck to have found (and kept) a marvel of a wife, a real beauty at 19 and still beautiful at 90, solid as a rock, full of kindness and understanding, a devoted mother, and always a friend, in good times and bad. And an excellent cook too... Whenever I waver in my outlook, I am encouraged when I think of my grandchildren and great grandchildren. They seem so full of life and promise. They are so well educated and enterprising that I have great expectations at least for this small segment of that great experiment --the human race.
When we celebrated my father's 90th birthday almost eight years ago, I stood in front of many of you and talked about his avid interest in his new computer, his daily weather forecasting, his coat and tie at dinner every night, his short-wave radio beaming in the news of the world in many languages at all hours of the day and night, and his twice daily walks.
Somehow it was the walks that I have been thinking about most often these last weeks. He had certain routes: circling Fairmount Boulevard, circling Council Crest Park, circling Healy Heights. When I lived at home, I would often go with him. The walks were vigorous. The pace was fast. We would walk and we would talk. After I married and moved away from Portland, we would walk whenever we were together, wherever we were: in Seattle or on San Juan Island, or in Metolius River country, or even in Yugoslavia and Prague. We would walk and we would talk. In keeping with his oft-stated conviction that he did not feel the slightest bit old until he was 92, the walks continued with vigor and the pace was fast. The last few years, the walks became shorter and slower, but still we walked and we talked. Last fall, they were only a block or two and my father leaned on my arm and used a cane. But still it was a walk and we talked. When he fell in December, just before Christmas, we did not walk again. And I realized my good fortune in having a father for such a long time, to walk with and talk with.
To some of you my father was Professor Munk or Dr. Munk. To others, he was Frank. To his Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren he was Grandfather. To my cousins he was Uncle Frank and to my brother he was Dad. My mother lovingly called him Franta or Frantisek. As for me, I called him Daddy, and I miss him.
- - - - - Back To Top - - - - - -
Return to family history.