In 1959, a committee of leading citizens of Western New York, in cooperation with Canisius University, established the Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius University to preserve and further Polish culture and heritage in Western New York. Funds for the initial endowment were donated by Polish American parishes in response to sermons given by Jesuits from Canisius University and also from direct appeals to members of the Polish-American community. The Board of Directors of the Polish Chair continues to raise funds to sustain the Polish Chair, to advise the President of the College on how best to spend the income from the endowment, and to advise and assist the College in sponsoring programs and projects that will preserve and further Polish culture and heritage. Over the years, various programs have been provided under the auspices of the Chair including a two-part video (DVD) program on churches of interest to the Polish community in Western New York, publication of a book, The Polonian Legacy of Western New York, sponsorship of numerous musical programs featuring artists such as the Moniuszko String Quartet, Boguslaw Szynalski of the State Opera of Poznan, Maria Knapic, Valerian Ruminski, Adrienne Tworek Gryta, Igor Lipinski, Mary Beth Wrobel, speakers such as Nobel-laureate Czeslaw Milosz, Polish senator, Andrzej Stelmachowski, and Pope John Paul II's biographer, George Weigel, theatrical productions such as Life in a Jar, a play about Irena Sendler who saved 2500 Jewish children during WWII, scholarship assistance for those interested in studying in Poland, and a multitude of other programs of interest to the Polish-American community and the community at large.
For upcoming events, please visit the Polish Chair's Facebook page.
The membership is made up of individuals nominated from the Western New York community who show an interest in Polish affairs as well as members from the Canisius University community from whom the Chairperson is selected. An individual is nominated to a two-year term, renewable for one additional term. After the four years, an individual must be off the Chair for at least a year, at which time the nomination process can begin again. Membership is strictly volunteer.
Typically, there are three meetings held each year (generally September, December, and April or May). At the meetings, reports are provided on the status of the endowment, budget, and programming. Members are invited to suggest possible programs of interest to the community relating to Polish history and culture. Votes are taken on the feasibility and funding of these programs which is determined by a majority of those present at the meetings. Members are asked to volunteer to assist in arranging the programming; and, of course, encouraged to attend events.