Jun 16, 2013

Honoring EDEN's Founding President

At the opening ceremony for EDEN's annual conference in Oslo, I had the pleasure and honor to express our gratitude to Erling Ljosa, EDEN's founding president, by handing over the plaquette depicted belove.

When I was preparing to meet Erling, I came over EDEN Newsletter 1, November 1992: A word from the President, Erling Ljosa:
"I sometimes ask myself who we are, we who have been grasped by a lasting interest in this strange thing,  distance education. Are we a gang of outcasts, people who for some accidental reason have stepped outside the more firmly established educational society?  Are we technological wizards who think learning is oozing out of machines and cables?  Or are we the true visionaries looking into and trying to create the future structures of education?
The future of EDEN will grow from our ability to create links across national and regional boundaries, and between people and institutions with either similar or quite different experience, but with common interests and aims in the field of distance learning.  Europe is a fragile and complex mixture of societies and people.  I hope that by creating new and stronger links in one of the growing fields of education and training, EDEN will contribute significantly to the development of educational opportunities within the whole of Europe."
Later, at our conference dinner, Erling gave a much appreciated speech which he agreed to send me so that we could share it online. He also sendt me the picture from the first board meeting in the Interim Ex. Committee in Warszawa in the fall of 91.
From left to right: Tamás Lajos (Techn. University Budapest), Armando Trindade (Universidade Aberta), Alan Tait (repr. for John Daniel, OU), Erling Ljosa, vise minister Tadeusz Diem, Polen and an unidentified partisipant.

Dinner speech
EDEN Conference, Oslo, 14 June 2013

Dear friends – old and new,
It may seem strange to you that a person who has been out of touch and so to speak lying in his grave for about ten years, suddenly comes forward at this Conference Dinner, speaking like a ghost from the past.

Such things were more usual in earlier times. In Shakespeare’s plays there are more than 15 ghosts appearing, and, as you probably know, Henrik Ibsen dedicated a whole play to the theme. I hope, however, that my appearance tonight will not be associated with anything like the bad omens or horrors that usually follow literary ghost stories.

I just want to congratulate EDEN and all of you with what you have achieved since the conception in Budapest in 1990 and the birth in Prague in 1991.

The first pan-European meeting at the Technical University of Budapest in May 1990 gave all us who were present a strong feeling of witnessing an historic event. I was particularly impressed by the openness and strength of the appeals from Professor Tamàs Lajos and from the Polish Deputy Minister Tadeusz Diem, urging us to open all the bridges and channels of communication so longclosed in Europe. This was an invitation which could not be refused. The meeting decided that there should be a follow-up under the name of The Budapest Platform, with a Steering Committee to meet in Milton Keynes, UK, in the autumn.

The Budapest meeting had been initiated and organized by ICDE, whose President at the time was Dr. David Sewart from the Open University in the UK, and with a newly established Secretariat in Oslo. When we discussed the situation in Milton Keynes, it became clear that there were many bridges to build and channels to open up in Western Europe as well. The European Community had quite recently taken up “Open and Distance Learning” as a field of interest, and some programs had been established, particularly concerning new technologies within vocational and continuing education. Countries outside the EU itself were supposed gradually to become involved. However, we had no open and transparent frameworks, mechanisms or organizations in Western Europe which would cover the whole field. The meeting in Budapest thus offered a golden opportunity not only for Central and Eastern Europe, but for all parts of Europe and for all sectors of distance education.

The Chair of the Budapest meeting and Platform was Dr. Gottfried Leibbrandt, founding President of the Dutch Open Universiteit. As preparation for the next meeting in Prague 1991 he asked me, who was Director of a private correspondence school, and Professor Armando Trindade, Rector of the Portuguese Universidade Aberta, to help drafting a constitution for a new pan-European Network with the euphonious name EDEN. The constitution was adopted and EDEN became real. The new network aimed from the beginning towards being open to all types of institutions, networks, project participants and even individuals, membership driven with a democratic structure.

I will spare you further details or nostalgic memories. This conference is again confirming my view that EDEN on the whole has pursued a sound and sustainable strategy. Along the route you have added important new activities and has long ago proved to be an extraordinary success. We should all be grateful to the two institutions which offered initial secretarial support, first the UK Open University, then the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. And we should be very proud indeed of the dedicated and competent contributions from secretarial staff and from Executive Committee members, partners and conference participants over all these years.
I therefore propose that you join me in a toast to all you faithful gardeners of EDEN – as an old ghost I give you all the blessings I know, before returning to my rather comfortable grave!


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