The inauguration of Elizabeth Kiss as the eighth president of Agnes Scott College in Decatur on April 20 had a decidedly Hungarian cast.
Not surprisingly, since Dr. Kiss, who is the youngest of three daughters of Eva and the late Sandor Kiss, was born in New York after her parents escaped Hungary following the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
Both parents were political prisoners; her father, a historian and member of parliament, was imprisoned by both the Communists and the Nazis.
Even Goncz Arpad, Hungary’s president from 1993-2000, wrote a letter of congratulations, which was read at the ceremony.
“It is my conviction that in you the college has gained a leader who will be respected for her democratic frame of mind, her human dignity, her ethical conduct and her enthusiasm for teaching, learning and scholarship,” the letter said in part.
“As I write these lines, many old memories come back to me. I see before my eyes your father and recall our shared struggle for human rights in a soulless world. I can almost hear our words of farewell, ‘God be with you!’ when your mother and sisters set off for the big world as refugees in 1956.
The world has changed immeasurably since then. What I would give for my beloved and respected comrades in arms to have lived to see Hungary’s democratic transformation! But I am proud that those who left their homeland as children or were born in a new world (as you were) have preserved their inheritance.”
Dr. Kiss assumed her position as president of the college on Aug. 1, 2006. Before coming to Agnes Scott, she spent 10 years at Duke University, where she was Nannerl O. Keohane director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and an associate professor of the practice of political science and philosophy.
The college’s international students greeted Dr. Kiss at the event in their ceremonial dress.
For more information, call Lee Dancy, director of news services, at (404) 471-5451 or send an email to Ldanncy@agnesscott.edu